Michael Frayn’s 1982 farcical play Noises Off returns to London’s West End once again, and it remains as chaotically hilarious as ever, cementing its place as a timeless classic.

Credit: Nobby Clark

Noises Off contains a play within a play, this one is titled ‘Nothing On’ and is premiering in Weston-Super-Mare. Over three acts the audience watches on in bewilderment at the pure chaos which unfolds during the show’s technical rehearsal, matinee performance, and a show at the end of the run. The play does in fact go wrong every time, which provides utter hilarity throughout.

Act one consists of the technical rehearsal of the production, this is the longest of the three acts, but the pacing is excellent, with time flying by throughout. The act perfectly sets up the story, introducing the audience to the characters, and setting the tone of the show well. The second act was my personal favourite, during this the set was turned 180 degrees, with the audience then watching from behinds the scenes, able to see everything unfolding at the back of the stage.

The third act felt rather unnecessary to me, I felt as though it didn’t really add much to the overall production, and began to feel slightly repetitive, as if we’d already seen most of these moments of comedy play out. I believe it would have been better to have found a way of ending the show in act two instead. As I don’t believe any of the production value or material would be diminished with the loss of the third act.

Lindsay Posner’s direction is impeccable throughout the production, never allowing the show to drag, the play progresses at an excellent pace, allowing the audience to be fully immersed in the production, grabbing our attention from the first line and holding it until the curtain falls. The same cannot be said for Lloyd Dallas’ direction! The set design by Simon Higlett is also perfectly apt for the production, a show about doors and sardines, requires both, and this has both in abundance. The attention to detail is wonderful, allowing for many moments of comedy to occur using the set.  

Credit: Nobby Clark

What really makes this show brilliant is its all-star cast, who give exceptional performances throughout. Frayn’s script is wonderfully funny, but it’s the cast that bring it to life, working seamlessly well together to perform it in a way which feels natural, as though the cast are simply improvising their way through the entire production.

But the undisputable star of this show is Joseph Millson as Garry Lejeune. Millson has an abundance of energy right the way through the performance, using physical comedy with stamina which only intensifies, and never lets up. His deadpan delivery is a stroke of comedic genius, which had the audience in stitches. He was sprinting ahead of his castmates, with his spirited, very active performance.

Tracy-Ann Oberman is joyful to watch as Belinda Blair, there’s a subtly to her facial expressions and mannerisms, which allow the audience to feel as though we’re in on the joke inside her mind, the one she hasn’t yet articulated.

It can be hard to endure the cold winter and blue Mondays, but Noises Off gives us something to smile about. It’s an absolute delight, and you can expect to hysterically laugh from start to finish. Every theatre lover needs to see this play at least once – this is a theatrical bucket list item which must be ticked.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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