Friday 7 October 2022

Noises Off - Review

Richmond Theatre, London


Written by Michael Frayn
Directed by Lindsay Posner

Felicity Kendal, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Matthew Kelly

Every now and then the planets align to create a production of sheer theatrical genius. So it is with Lindsay Posner’s touring take on Noises Off, currently playing at the Richmond Theatre.

Firstly, the script. Michael Frayn’s farce, penned 40 years ago, is a work of meticulous accuracy as it lays down gags, plots, sub-plots and nuance as we follow a touring theatre company rehearsing and performing the play-within-a-play Nothing On, around which the narrative plays out. Without ever resorting to corniness, Frayn mines the traditional farcical components of slamming doors, trousers around ankles and plot-lines of delicious sauciness. But its not just that Frayn’s text make us laugh, it is that he also offers a witty and at times poignant critique of the human condition – from the frailty of ageing through to alcohol addiction. No word of the script is wasted in the show’s three acts that treat the audience to whirlwind tours backstage and front of house as the plot’s calamitous events unfold.

Next up, the direction. Lindsay Posner has a visionary talent who understands the structure of each of the shows countless laughlines. Posner has form with the play, having directed the Old Vic production in 2011 and it shows. This production is slick, seamless and lifts the audience with its brilliance.

Finally, the cast, and Posner has been gifted a platinum-plated company to work with. The show’s seven key roles (the six characters of Nothing On together with that show’s director) include some of the nation’s finest comic pedigree - and in Noises Off there is no real star. The play only stands on the strengths of its company working as a team, and this team is strong. Felicity Kendal, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Matthew Kelly, Alexander Hanson, Joseph Millson, Jonathan Coy and Sasha Frost are all sublime in their roles that span a raft of characters aged from 70-something through to a glamourous starlet in her 20s. Their timing is honed to split-second accuracy and it is a credit to both actors and director that the show’s physical comedy, that in lesser hands could just be a ridiculous and clumsy distraction, is here delivered to side-splitting perfection. Pepter Lunkuse and Hubert Burton complete the cast list as the stage management team of Nothing On and though less accomplished than the show’s bigger beasts, are equally faultless in their work.

After Richmond, Noises Off heads off to Brighton and then Cambridge. Don’t miss it!

Runs until October 15th, then tours
Photo credit: Nobby Clark

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