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Monday, 30 January 2023

REVIEW: Noises Off at the Phoenix Theatre

Farce is one of the finest theatrical traditions rooted in the British obsession with manners and respectability. A heady brew of slapstick, confusion and mixed messaging between frustrated characters. From Shakespeare through Oscar Wilde to Noel Coward and more recently Henry Lewis, the genre constantly reinvents itself. Noises Off by Michael Frayn is one of the best and makes a welcome return to the West End at the Phoenix Theatre.

This is the classic play within a play, as a stressed company of actors rehearse for a provincial run of 'Nothing On'. The outer play splits into three distinct acts but portrays a single act from three different perspectives. First, there is the 'technical' or dress rehearsal, where all the glitches are supposedly ironed out. Secondly, the act is played on the first night but shown from backstage. And finally, the act is shown from the front of the house, where the backstage shenanigans and eventual consequences begin to make sense.

Monday, 17 October 2022

REVIEW: Noises Off at the Richmond Theatre

I have strong memories of a brilliantly funny night at the Savoy Theatre in 1982 with Paul Eddington, Michael Aldridge, and Patricia Routledge with Michael Frayn’s cleverly structured fast-paced comedy, Noises Off. The title hints at its theatricality referring to sounds heard off stage while performing and each of the three acts involved the same first act of old-fashioned sex comedy, Nothing On. The first act is the dress rehearsal before the tour in Weston Super-Mare, the second act is the same seen from behind the set on the tour in Ashton under Lyme and the third act is at the end of the tour in Stockton on Tees. In each Act we see mounting chaos as the cast’s offstage relationships fall apart and gradually overtake the on-stage performances. It is a very strong premise and a clever parody of those famous Ben Travers Aldwych Farces of the 1920s and 1930s and Ray Cooney comedies of the 1960s to 1980s.

Forty years on it feels a little different, a sort of cross between Fawlty Towers (which predates it), Acorn Antiques (the TV sitcom of mid-1980s) and The Play That Goes Wrong (from 2012) with characters and business lifted from each (although the latter two may have borrowed from this play) but somehow on this outing not as laugh out loud funny as any of them. Indeed, it is only really Act 2 which really shines with hardly any words from the backstage scenes (while the action on stage is taking place again) but plenty of brilliant physical business with flowers, an axe and a bottle of whisky and an astonishingly well-timed series of entrances and exits which seem to make sense! By the third act, all sense of reality has gone, and it is a bonkers scene of ad-libs, missed entrances and knock-about slapstick comedy.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Best Shows of 2019

"This has to be one of the best things I’ve ever seen and I implore you to see this show because you will not regret it. I hope this show has more life after this run at the Union Theatre and I’m sure this won’t be your only chance to see this production but you need to go and buy a ticket now otherwise you’ve missed one of the theatrical highlights of 2019."

Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre

"I have never come out of a show feeling the way I felt about this play. It is time to face the facts and realise the wrongs in history and change them now, our voices can be heard... This is the play of the year, if there is one story you are to be told this year, its this one."


Tuesday, 8 October 2019

REVIEW: Noises Off at the Garrick theatre

The Lyric Hammersmith’s production of Noises Off opens in the living-room of a picturesque country home. “HOLD IT THERE” comes the booming voice of Lloyd Dallas, played by Lloyd Owen. Dallas is the director of Nothing On which is currently approaching the midnight hour of the dress rehearsal in Weston Super-Mare. This is the first of many interruptions that threaten to derail the production.

This play-within-a-play, or more accurately a farce-within-a-farce, centres around an acting company attempting to stage a bedroom farce as their relationships and the show itself descend further and further into chaos. In the first act we see the hours slipping away as the actors try to remember their blocking and lines as Dallas pulls his hair out and the poor Stage Management team of Poppy and Tim (Anjli Mohindra and Adrian Richards respectively) struggle to keep the show afloat and their nerves in check.

The choreography of this show is an utter masterpiece. As each visitor to the house darts through a door another swings open; every character misses the others with timing so impeccable you could set your watch too it. The choreography in the second act steps up a level; axes, sardines and bottles of whiskey fly across the backstage that is now presented to us. Flowers, sheets and costumes get whipped around in a frenzied whirlwind of perfectly executed slapstick comedy and all in silence as we hear the performance take place through the doors and walls of the set which now shows us its unkempt backstage side.
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