Noises Off at the Lyric Hammersmith
Michael Frayn’s comedy classic Noises Off returns to the home of its original run almost 40 years later. Has time been kind to this play? One could argue that farce is out of fashion and Noises Off is somewhat dated and very much of its time, however this kind of slap-stick humour never grows old and it’s actually quite refreshing to see something so organically silly and fun. Director Jeremy Herrin’s production unashamedly embraces the controlled chaos of the play without feeling the need to update or alter it in any way and this is testament to Frayn’s expertly executed and intricate creation.
An acting company are rehearsing a farce called Nothing On and we are permitted a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into life behind the scenes. The laughter ensues throughout Act 2 as Max Jones’s set is rotated to allow us to witness the backstage antics as the performance runs with countless glitches, mistakes and mishaps. By Act 3, as Nothing On enters its final weeks, the cast are at breaking point. Herrin ensures a fast pace to the production, aided by Joyce Henderson’s movement direction, whilst allowing the cast to draw out certain comical moments. It’s clear all are having fun here.
Frayn first had the idea for Noises Off when he was watching from the wings a one-act farce he’d written, witnessing the desperate rushing about of the actors, who had to make their entrances on time regardless of what might be going on backstage. Interested in the idea of keeping up appearances, the playwright was intrigued as to what might happen if the controlled chaos of a farce onstage became overrun by the real disarray of the actors’ lives off stage. Noises Off was certainly ahead of its time, inspiring such contemporary works as The Play That Goes Wrong; however Frayn incorporates a level of wit and social commentary that allows the work to retain its appeal for a 2019 audience.
Simon Rouse generates much laughter as Selsdon, the permanently sloshed actor with selective hearing, and Daniel Rigby as the insecure and highly strung Garry also stands out for his comic timing. Lloyd Owen as the increasingly dismayed director is a joy to watch. The cast as a whole are committed to the play, complementing one another well.
Whilst not for everyone and heavy on the slap-stick, a broad array of humour is catered for here. Provided you are willing to embrace the silliness, this revival makes for a fun and enjoyable evening.
Photos: Helen Maybanks
Noises Off is at the Lyric Hammersmith from 27th June until 27th July 2019. Book your tickets here.