It came as a surprise to me that ‘Noises Off’, currently playing at the Lyric Hammersmith, premiered at that self-same venue some 37 years ago.
The play, set in three acts, charts the incident-laden production of a fictitious Farce, ‘Nothing On’; at the Technical Rehearsal, backstage at the Wednesday Matinee performance one month later and finally near the end of it’s ten week touring run.
Written by Michael Frayn, the piece is a work of technical mastery – I’d love to see the script so I could see exactly how he sets out what’s happening both on stage and off – it must’ve been a total headache to write!
The assembled director, cast and crew of ‘Nothing On’ is a gaggle of has beens, wannabes and incompetents, several of whom are romantically involved with each other – which becomes fertile ground for comedy and calamity as the tour of the fictitious play drags on.
Such is the complexity of this slapstick tour de force, that actual real-life mishaps were still happening when we visited nearly a week after opening night: Actors were still accidentally tripping over and bottles of wine hurtled to the front of the stage, perilously close to landing in an audience members lap! But this only contributed to the sense of chaos that the play is built upon.
The cast are consistently strong but I particularly enjoyed Daniel Rigby as the spurned-lover-cum-onstage-estate agent Garry Lejeune, who I can only imagine is covered in bruises by the end of each show, and his bit on the side, played by Amy Morgan – whose Brooke Ashton would stubbornly keep delivering her lines and staging, notwithstanding Nuclear armageddon!
The play is full of laugh-out-loud moments and as the curtain falls one can’t help but feel an incredible sense of admiration for the company: the piece is so complex and requires such perfect synchronicity and timing – the must be thoroughly relieved when it’s all over.
I’d definitely recommend seeing ’Noises Off’ of you can: it is THE perfect example of a (reasonably) modern English farce and you’re unlikely to see better than this production.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter
Photo: Helen Maybanks
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