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A CurtainUp London Review
Noises Off

And God said, "Let there be doors that open when they open, and close when they close."
— Lloyd
Noises Off
Cast in Noises Off (Photo: Helen Maybanks)
Noises Off raised the bar for farce production in England by imaginatively revealing what was happening at the back of the stage of a farce being played in weekly rep. There are not just the prat falls but the complications of everyone's private life impinging on the show. The cleverness is in making all three acts inventive and fresh.

Farce was the stalwart of London Theatre in the twentieth century with Ben Travers in the 1920s and 30s, Brian Rix's reign at The Whitehall in the 50s and 60s and more recently, from 1961 Ray Cooney's run of plays. There has been a recent revival with productions from the Mischief Theatre Company.

In Act One we are at the tech rehearsal or is it the dress rehearsal, a couple of days before the opening of the first act of the play within a play Nothing On? The very posh Dotty Otley as Mrs Clackett, the Cockney housekeeper (Meera Syal) is having trouble remembering what to do with the plate of sardines, the telephone and the newspaper.

Lloyd Owen as the director Lloyd Dallas is trying to get it right and leading man and Dotty's boyfriend Gary, acting Roger Tramplemaine (Gary Lejeune) played by Daniel Rigby comes to Dotty's rescue by suggesting Lloyd should be kinder. Confused by the actors playing actors? Keep up! Roger is a local estate agent with keys to the house while the owners are meant to be in Spain. Roger has come to the house with his blonde bimbo Vicky (Brooke Ashton) played by Lisa McGrillis for a sexual dalliance thinking that it is the housekeeper's afternoon off.

The arrival of tax exiles and house owners Philip and Flavia Brent (Frederick Fellowes and Belinda Blair) played by Richard Henders and Sarah Hadland complete the cast for the moment. Missing and thought to be inebriated somewhere is Selsdon Mowbray, cast as the burglar (Simon Rouse). The well meaning Assistant Stage Manager Poppy (Anjli Mohindra) is so incompetent it is suggested early on that she might be somebody's girlfriend in the days of jobs for "Me Too". Backstage too is the Jack of all trades, Company and Stage Manager Tim Allgood (Adrian Richards).

Max Jones's box set is the perfect venue for farce, multiple doors on two levels for the ins and outs of misunderstanding and concealment and windows for emergency exits and burgling entrances. In Act Two the set is reversed so we can see behind the scenes and the show is a month into its run. We are still on Act One of Nothing On. The split second timing is wonderful and the Noises Off audience love to laugh out loud or even squeal with delight or gasp as lovers fall out and are betrayed.

Act Three sees another Act One of Nothing On, this time from the front of the stage, on its last night of the tour where just about everything that can go wrong goes wrong! The success of the Mischief Theatre Company with their now long running Play That Goes Wrong and multiple spin offs show that the appetite for West End comedy is as strong as ever and of course pratfalls need no translation for non "English" speaking visitors to London in this world of visual comedy.

Michael Frayn's originality with Noises Off in 1983 which took place at the Garrick 37 years ago is as fresh as ever and an all age family treat. It is theatrical history which can be enjoyed today in director Jeremy Herrin's expert hands. I wonder whether the sardines are real or plastic?

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Noises Off
Written by Michael Frayn
Directed by Jeremy Herrin
Starring: Meera Syal, Sarah Hadland, Richard Henders, Lisa McGrillis, Anjli Mohindra, Lloyd Owen, Adrian Richards, Daniel Rigby, Simon Rouse
Design: Max Jones
Lighting Design: Tim Lutkin
Sound Designer: Ella Wahlstrom
Movement: Joyce Henderson
Fight Director: RC Annie Ltd
A Lyric Theatre Hammersmith production
Running time: Two hours 15 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0330 333 4810
Booking to 4th January 2020
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 3rd October 2019 performance at The Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Road. London WC2H 0HH (Tube/Rail: Charing Cross)
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