Noises Off is a comedy farce by Michael Frayn. It is a play inside a play. First premiered at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1982, the show went on to transfer to the Savoy Theatre where it ran until 1987. Most recently it played at the Old Vic and then for a short run at the Novello Theatre before Mamma Mia moved in.
Sedos (an amateur dramatics company who strive for professional standards) produce 8-10 shows per year and have a residency at the Bridewell Theatre. Noises Off is their latest offering.
Performed in three acts, the play starts with the shows dress rehearsal where everyone gets along with each other. By act 2 (one month later on tour) the cracks are starting to appear between the actors and by the time we get to three months later, all hell is breaking loose and whilst the cast are going through the motions on stage, everything else could not be more catastrophic.
The comedic genius of this play is that when the stage is revolved for act two (and you watch the action from backstage), you can still hear the cast reenacting the same scene as they did in act 1. Unfortunately, in this production, whilst it was obvious the same scene was being performed, the dialogue wasn’t loud enough and the entire scene was mostly spent listening the to backstage mumbling. Another disappointing moment was the transition between acts 2 and 3 when the stage is revolved again in full view of the audience. In other productions I have seen, the curtain comes down for this to take place which helps keep the illusion of the play. I understand that in the Bridewell Theatre this may not be possible but perhaps the show could have just been performed with the first two acts (cutting the third) like some productions around the world have done.
The acting in this production is good and Jessica Rogers does especially well as ditsy actress Brooke who is good at remembering her lines but not very good at improvising when things start to go wrong. It takes a good actor to be able to play the character of a bad actor but Jessica delivers the lines in monotone perfection. Chloe Faine also performs the comedy well as Dotty Ottley, the housekeeper with a penchant for a nice plate of Sardines. For the boys, Sam Pearce does well as love interest Garry and Alex Magliaro flits around the stage well as stage manager Tim.
Noises Off is probably my favourite comedy farce and it was lovely to see this production of it. It’s a great show and if you’ve not seen it it’s well worth the trip.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: David Ovenden