Garrick Theatre, London
If you’re looking for a few hours of complete laugh out loud escapism, Noises Off is 100% the show for you. It is a play about putting on a fated production; from a dramatic technical dress rehearsal to a dramatic performance mid run and a final disastrous show near the end of the run, it’s clear that this show is destined for doom.
What’s fantastic about this play, is that the real joke is rooted in the processes of theatre and those that perform it. Entrances, exits, line memorisation and personal issues are just some of the things that go into the mixture to create this crumbling production. Long before The Play That Goes Wrong, Michael Frayn had the idea for this farcical show after watching a performance of his own play The Two of Us from backstage at the Garrick Theatre. It’s a production of controlled chaos which is entertaining from the front of house and backstage.
Max Jones’ set is a wonderfully realistic and beautifully executed living room and upper landing that is exquisitely turned round for act two. The play begins as tiring director Lloyd (Lloyd Owen) is trying to push his company of actors through a final rehearsal for Nothing On. Making appearances in the stalls, boxes and circle as he tears his hair out, the audience are immediately immersed in the hilarity and action set to ensue. Whilst heightened, the panic and tension hits close to home for anyone who’s been part of putting on a show.
The cast members are exceptional in their performances as they stand out individually but also thrive as an ensemble. Each with razor sharp comedic timing, their organised chaos is perfectly carried out. Slamming doors, lost contact lenses and dropping trousers, there’s something ever entertaining about slapstick comedy when it’s carried out so well.
Within the uniformly stellar cast, there are three performances which stand out just a tad. Meera Syal plays Dotty, the poised but forgetful performer who is playing Mrs Clackett, an absent-minded housekeeper who can’t seem to keep her sardines. Sarah Hadland is Belinda, the overly nice, girl next door who plays the flirty Flavia Brent. Daniel Rigby as Garry is is excellent and he transforms from doting to hating and gives a tiring but completely enthralling physical performance.
A blissfully laughable production, with a heart of gold reminder about professionalism in the arts, this is a must see production which will surely continue to have audiences gasping for air and slapping their thighs.