by Michael Frayn.
Old Vic Theatre The Cut SE1 8LZ To 10 March 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no evening performance 24, 31 Dec. Mat 20, 22, 24, 28, 30, 31 Dec then Wed &Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 31 Jan.
Captioned 7 Feb.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7628 (£2.50 transaction fee – does not apply to supporters of The Old Vic).
Review: Carole Woddis 13 December.
Ingenious and comic as ever.
Michael Frayn’s Noises Off is virtually performance-proof, so perfectly constructed it defies the worst any actors or directors can do to it. Lindsay Posner’s production may contain the odd lapse but Frayn’s 1982 hit proves once again a glorious, irresistible festive offering.
Garlanded with awards since it opened, this riotous backstage farce bursts into life through the simple but hoary device of the play-within-a-play. Feeding off the regional treadmill of touring routine farces in the old days, Frayn with impish cheek develops a triptych of acts exposing theatrical behind-the-scenes pressures and hypocrisies with a delicious sense of accumulating catastrophe
An initial opening scene sees Celia Imrie as Dotty Otley, who’s put the tour together for her final fling, rehearsing as an archetypal cleaning-lady in a fictitious British sex farce, Nothing On, at the Grand, Weston-Super-Mare, trying to get the right side of a stage direction demanding the juggling of sardines and a telephone – a joke that grows into a juggernaut of mishap during the evening – before a second act in which an actual performance a month later at the Theatre Royal, Ashton-Under-Lyne is seen from backstage and under severe strain from mounting personal hostilities.
Given its theatrical in-joking Frayn’s comedy should be a turn-off for non-theatricals. Instead, such is Frayn’s precision, his acuteness of observation of human foibles – sex, betrayal, alcoholic decay – that by the time Act III arrives, in the same living-room set, two months later at the Municipal Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees, audience and actors, for different reasons, have been reduced to hopeless wrecks.
The secret of course, is to play it all for real, which this stellar cast led by Imrie play to the hilt. Janie Dee is delicious as the glamour bomb of the group, Robert Glenister hilarious as the increasingly exasperated and two-timing director, whilst you fear for Jamie Glover’s life and limb as he pulls off the comic coup of the night, tumbling the full length of the supposed manor-house staircase. Excellent work too from Jonathan Coy, Amy Nuttall, Paul Ready, Aisling Loftus and Karl Johnson combine to make this an almost total treat.
Dotty Otley: Celia Imrie.
Lloyd Dallas: Robert Glenister.
Garry Lejeune: Jamie Glover.
Brooke Ashton: Amy Nuttall.
Poppy Norton-Taylor: Aisling Loftus.
Frederick Fellowes: Jonathan Coy.
Belinda Blair: Janie Dee.
Tim Allgood: Paul Ready.
Selsdon Mowbray: Karl Johnson.
Director: Lindsay Posner.
Designer: Peter McKintosh.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Music: Michael Bruce.
Movement/Fights: Kate Waters.
First performance of this production of Noises Off at the Old Vic 3 December 2011.