With so many family members who – unbelievably – had still never seen Noises Off, we had a big trip up to London to catch the last night of the current run of Lindsay Posner’s new production of this classic comedy – and it was worth every penny and every minute. I’m sure you know the premise; TV star Dotty Otley has sunk her money into a touring production of Robin Housemonger’s latest sex comedy, Nothing On, opening tomorrow night at the Grand Theatre Weston-super-Mare. Unfortunately, they’re all a bit behind with their rehearsals.
So Act One of Noises Off is the dress rehearsal of Act One of Nothing On; Act Two is backstage during the midweek matinee at the Theatre Royal, Goole, a few weeks later; and Act Three is the last night of the tour at the Municipal Theatre, Stockton on Tees. Although everyone is sweetness and light at the beginning (apart from the super-stressed director), it doesn’t take long for relationships to become a little strained; and when one member of the cast gets jealous of the attention paid to others, it becomes too much to bear.
There’s so much to enjoy in the show. The mistimed curtain announcements. The dilemma of too many sardines. Lost contact lenses. Sudden nosebleeds. Stuck doors. Tied laces. Concealed whisky bottles. It’s a never ending list. I’ve now seen Noises Off five times over the decades, and I challenge anyone to come up with a funnier individual Act within a play certainly over the last forty years than Act Two of Noises Off. You inevitably end up with your eyes streaming with happy tears and your voice hoarse from cackling. You also think you’ve always seen the best ever cast – until the next time you see it.
This delightful production has a cast to die for. Felicity Kendal brings all her immaculate comic timing to the role of Dotty Otley, unable to tell her newspaper from her sardines, mouthing obscenities at other cast members and truly nailing the killer lines that Michael Frayn provides her. Alexander Hanson is fantastic as director Lloyd, again with brilliant timing, wonderfully tired with not only this ghastly play but life in general. Joseph Millson gives us a superb physical comedy performance as the neurotic and furious Garry, with some amazing pratfalls and vocal athletics. Matthew Kelly is joyfully doddery as the oft-inebriated Selsdon, Jonathan Coy beautifully brings out all Freddie’s anxieties and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the role of Belinda Blair played with such inventive humour as here by Katherine Kingsley. In fact, occasionally one can feel that Act Three is a tiny bit of an anti-climax after the high octane hilarity of the middle act – but not a bit of it here, I’ve never seen Act Three played so brilliantly.
The production has already had a brief UK tour before hitting the West End, and will be returning for a new tour later this year. Considering the whole genre of the sex comedy is pretty much a thing of the past, it’s amazing how fresh and recognisable the comedy is. Should be compulsory viewing for everyone! A sheer delight from start to finish.
Production photos by Nobby Clark