Noises Off @ Theatre Royal

Image by Johan Persson

Image by Johan Persson

Noises Off, Michael Frayn’s play within a play, was like a night at the circus with actors catapulting down staircases, sardines flying through the air and numerous trousers around ankles tripping and tumbling the cast about the set. Although it is the most chaotic play I have seen, the cast of The Old Vic’s touring production at Theatre Royal Nottingham pulled it off with style.

We are first introduced to the dress rehearsal for ‘Nothing On’ with hilarious missed cues, missaid lines, and a very frustrated director played by Neil Pearson who shouts his directions from the stalls and cannot wait to start directing a production of Richard III. The set illustrates a living room with a staircase and many, many doors – these doors are slammed and locked and broken to the audience’s content all night long.

The second act shows the cast four weeks into their tour and the tumultuous relationships that have developed along the way. A new set has been established which comprises of the back stage area so that the play can be watched all over again but with a different perspective – and oh what a perspective that is. Chaos unfolds with silent battles between the cast which creates uproarious laughter. A prank is played on Garry, played by David Bark–Jones, which involves his feet being tied together by his shoelaces meaning a fabulous hopping motion is needed to continue the act. It really is comedy taken to the extreme but I loved it for its lack of subtlety.

A third act continues with the stage set from the first act so that the disastrous performance of ‘Nothing On’ can be viewed to its full potential. Maureen Beattie playing Dotty gives a terrific performance in this act looking dishevelled in her pink slippers– we all know that back-stage must be complete mayhem. Geoffrey Freshwater playing the partially deaf Selsdon gains the largest laughs as he struggles to remember his line about sardines!

Congratulations are in order to such a superb team of actors who maintain the terrifying speed of the play with true skill. It is a play where the timings of the dialogue, entrances and exits are absolutely crucial to the success of the show but this cast make it appear almost effortless. Lindsay Posner, the director, has enhanced an outstanding farcical comedy that left me not knowing where to look next because the stage is so busy with doors opening revealing more uproar.

If farcical comedy involving sardine-slipping moments and bountiful nose bleeds do not tickle you silly then perhaps Noises Off is not for you. On the other hand, I am willing to bet that even those who shiver at the thought of such slapstick comedy will be giggling by the calamitously funny end.

Victoria McDowall

Noises Off runs at Theatre Royal, Nottingham until Saturday 4th May. For tickets go to:

Alternatively, you have until midday Wednesday 1st May to enter Impact Art’s competition to win a pair of tickets to the performance of Noises Off on Thursday 2nd May. Details can be found here:


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