Michael Frayn’s Noises Off is one of the most delicious, exuberant comedies ever written and this West End transfer of the Lyric Hammersmith production that opened this summer proves that there is nothing we need more right now than the opportunity to laugh at a show that has nothing to do with the world around us and everything to do with the foibles of actors and the workings of farce.
The play follows a team of touring actors as they try to stage the farce “Nothing On” and we see it from the disastrous dress rehearsal, through to the tired end of run from both front of house and back stage. The actors bravely carry on despite their personal lives increasingly getting in the way of their ability to make it through to the end of the play in an hilarious send-up of the “show must go on” mentality of theatre folk.
This is belly-aching theatre with laughs from the first few minutes right through to the end. Silly, funny stuff like plates of sardines turning up in the wrong place, door handles falling off and an actor going on stage with his shoe-laces tied together; to darker physical comedy like near misses with an axe.
The cast are stupendous led by Meera Syal as “Dotty” the ageing actress who has injected her own cash into the production who uses a glorious RP when not in character as the housekeeper of the “onstage” farce. Lloyd Owen plays the put-upon director who would rather be working at the RSC, while Sarah Hadland plays Belinda, tasked with trying to keep the ensemble together. Daniel Rigby is sublime as the male lead Gary who believes he has been cuckolded by his fellow actor (Richard Henders) and Simon Rouse plays a delightfully bumbling Selsdon.
If you’ve never seen this play before – which premiered at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1982 – then Jeremy Herrin’s production will be a brilliant introduction – it is about as good as it gets.
Writer: Michael Frayn
Director: Jeremy Herrin
Set and costume designer: Max Jones
Lighting designer: Ella Wahlstrom
Sound designer: Daniel Raggett
Noises Off runs at the Garrick until January 4 2020, www.noisesoffplay.com