Noises Off! (The Old Vic)

Posted on January 6, 2012

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Have you ever been involved in a touring theatre production? Or, heavens forbid, a spot of am-dram? Well, no surprises here I guess, but in my younger days I was involved in more than a few productions. Some which went on for months, and much like the scenario in ‘Noises Off!’, showmances fell apart, so did the set, props went astray, fast friends became enemies and production staff found themselves on stage more times than not… For me the world of ‘Noises Off!’ isn’t fiction, it’s like a documentary.

Which maybe is why I found myself both laughing hysterically (along with the whole audience) and at times judging the Old Vic’s revival very harshly.

‘Noises Off!’ had me laughing so hard I almost had a wardrobe malfunction.

This is perfect holiday season fare, it’s warm, funny and has all the traits of a domestic comedy (and theatres really are like homes to those of us involved in the craft… sorry, I’m going a bit thespian, and not for the first time). Daft actors, drunks, odd romances, secret affairs, memory loss, personal tragedies… this is more and more sounding like my personal life than anything else.

Noises Off!‘ works on the simple conceit of very good actors playing ‘bad’ actors. Like hearing Hannah Waddingham deliberately sing off-key, you go with it because you know see could belt out the notes if she choose to. Here we have professional actors behaving unprofessionally, and the humour comes not only from their actions, but from the cold-work precision in which they screw things up.

And this is where I got a little bit cross with this production.

The second act got a bit muddy as the ‘on stage’ action was not clear. We, the audience, couldn’t tell if the actor were really hitting their cues or not and that robbed the moments of that extra punch. Also – what happened to the scenic background?! Backstage actors are standing right behind an onstage window as if the fictional audience couldn’t see right through it. And the act is so busy, actions were getting lost as the audiences attention was pulled from left to right to up to down.

That however is my one and only complaint. ‘Noises Off!’ had me laughing so hard I almost had a wardrobe malfunction.

The cast were superb. Janie Dee‘s Belinda had me weeping as she tried to hold the whole show together with a smile.

But the real hero of this piece is Michael Frayn‘s cracking script. It’s just a real winner and deserves to be revived again.

Rating: It’s a damn fine comedy. Just go already!

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