Noises Off

Written by Michael Frayn, Directed by Philip Wilson
Liverpool Playhouse (8th-30th June 2007)

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This hilarious comedy, written by Michael Frayn twenty five years ago, is a farce about a farce. It had many in the audience roaring out in laughter almost throughout the performance, and served as a fitting end to what has been a highly impressive season at the Playhouse.

'Noises Off', which refers to offstage sound effects, graphically depicts the shambolic dealings of an inept touring theatre company - although company is perhaps not the right expression given the bickering forever taking place between various members of the cast - who attempt to perform a sex farce, which is almost a mirror image of their own shenanigans.

The play is set out over three acts. In the first, the cast and crew - with many mishaps on the way - attempt to put together a final rehearsal before they open on stage the following day. This involves misplaced plates of sardines (sardines are dominant throughout!), a misplaced contact lens, broken doors, nose bleeds, mistimed entries by various actors and more, watched over with increasing anger and frustration by their long suffering director Lloyd (David Leonard).

The play they are rehearsing revolves around an eccentric maid Belinda Blair (Geraldine McNulty) - she who likes sardines - together with a drunken burglar (Fred Pearson), an Arab sheik (Matthew Cottle), a young woman parading around in her underwear (Anna Acton), and naturally, given the nature of the play, incessant banging of doors and the dropping of trousers.

I found Act Two unusual and highly entertaining. It takes place backstage, while the play proceeds but with no less chaos created by the troupe on and off stage. The hatred between certain individuals has grown to the point where disaffected lovers seek revenge on those who have crossed them, leading to some absurd but true to life sequences.

Noises Off then proceeds, two months later, to the final act, which views the play from the perspective of a seaside matineé audience. By this time chaos has turned into almost total anarchy among the actors. The production has become an utter shambles, with complete lines of dialogue forgotten, fellow actors playing the roles of other actors, and props being demolished.

I must admit I found this part of Noises Off the least effective, perhaps because the disaster-laden concept of the production had become slightly predictable.

But this is a slight quibble in what is a minor masterpiece of British comedy writing.

Printer friendly page


Comment left by barrieg on 20th June, 2007 at 9:22
I think you'll find the maid was played by Geraldine McNulty.

Printer friendly page

Comments are closed for this review