Latest Review – Noises Off [The Lowry, Salford Quays]


The Lowry, Salford Quays

Until Saturday 21 October 2023

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Hailed by many as the finest British stage comedy ever written, Michael Frayn’s celebrated play-within-a-play presents a fast, frantic and often eye-wateringly hilarious, behind-the-scenes look at the unpredictability of live theatre and the surreal backstage antics of a touring theatre company as they prepare to stage the fictional comedy, Nothing On.

Presented in three riotous acts, Noises Off opens with the company’s rather shambolic technical rehearsal – the evening before opening night – as the play’s increasingly exasperated director attempts to whip things in to shape (as best he can) with the early hours of the morning drawing ever closer.

After finally getting through to the end of the play, act two then flips the set around as we see the now in-production play presented from a backstage perspective during an utterly chaotic Wednesday matinee in Ashton-under-Lyne. Then, following a short pause, the set flips back around as we see the company stumble through a catastrophic final performance at the Municipal Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees for the show’s concluding act.

Frayn’s great farce was groundbreaking when it was first presented and remains as funny and ingeniously constructed as ever, though this current version is not without a few problems.

Noises Off is a play that has been revived and presented countless times over the years and with many different directors overseeing the productions. The problem is, with the action being so meticulously plotted for a very specifically designed set, it is very difficult to try and bring fresh ideas to the table, and, if you can’t do anything new or original, the production has to be perfect.

For this new 40th anniversary touring production, first staged in London’s West End earlier in the year, director Lindsay Posner has assembled a strong cast of hugely experienced stage veterans, including Liza Goddard, Simon Shepherd and Matthew Kelly. Despite the strength of the cast, the production suffers from a few timing issues which can cause the overall pacing to lag on occasion with some of the pauses held too long and a few key comic lines thrown away upstage.

Noises Off is an unrelenting, breakneck ensemble piece that relies on razor sharp choreography and split-second timing. It is a play that starts fast and doesn’t let up until the final curtain, with so much going on in every corner of the set. The energy and stamina of the company is faultless but the staging here isn’t always quite as slick as it needs to be.

With guaranteed belly laughs throughout, Noises Off is pure escapism and sure to leave you smiling. Despite the issues, Frayn’s great farce remains a real comic masterpiece, full of great visual elements, biting dialogue and hilarious set pieces. Rarely do you see audiences falling out their seats with laughter.

Running Time: 2 hours and 25 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at The Lowry, Salford Quays: Saturday 21 October 2023

For more information, and to book tickets, please CLICK HERE.

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