Thursday, 20 November 2008

REVIEW: “Noises Off” (Touring)

(The reviews continue through Job Hunting Hell as your author attempts to procrastinate writing yet another cover letter.)

It takes a lot for me to justify the effort involved in crossing London to see a show at the New Wimbledon. Sometimes I’ll genuinely want to see a show coming in and other times it’s to get to a production before it comes into the West End at inflated prices (I’m looking at you, Carousel, which I had to miss...)

I didn’t go to Noises Off for either reason. I saw the Broadway revival in 2002 starring Peter Gallagher as sardonic director Lloyd and Patti LuPone as the er...dotty...Dotty, and though I liked it quite a bit, it’s very much a “once is enough” kind of play. So why go again? Because I am an utter anorak and catching the tour meant seeing an ex Doctor Who on stage in the form of Colin Baker.

For anybody who hasn’t seen Noises Off at the National, on one of many countless tours, or in regional, it can be a bit hard to describe. The first act takes place as a low end touring company are working through their last minute dress rehearsal of a door-slammer farce (Quick, into the bedroom! No not that bedroom, this one that looks like a bathroom!) It’s clear from the start that things are going pear shaped as nobody can remember lines or blocking and personal drama is starting to rear its head as we find out that co-producer actress Dotty (Maggie Steed) is having a relationship with one of her co-stars while director Lloyd (Ben Hull...I think, the website lacks details) is sleeping with both bimbo Belinda and stage manager Poppy whom he ruthlessly belittles onstage. Compounding issues are various offstage divorces, an overworked tech director, and drunken, half-deaf Selsdon (Baker) disappearing at inopportune times as the cast attempt to keep him sober.

The real triumph, however, lies in the second act: it’s six weeks into the tour and tensions flare backstage as the affairs split, change partners, and cause all sorts of general havoc. Where author Michael Frayn is so brilliant is in showing us the chaotic backstage happenings within a (mostly) successful performance of the actual play. It goes downhill again for act three, however, as we see the final performance falling apart from the first line.

Is this a solid production? Yes. Should you go if you haven’t seen it before? Yes. Is there a reason to go back if you’re not interested in the comedically gifted cast? Not really. The sets and general direction are both based on the National’s original production from the 80’s, so there isn’t anything new if you’re expecting more than nostalgia. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that Noises Off is still laugh out loud hilarious and manages to fulfil the demands of farce while subverting it at every opportunity.

Where: Touring, currently the New Wimbledon
When: Until 22 Nov., no idea after. Th-Sa @ 19:30, Th/Sa @ 14:30
How Much: £10-£25
Concessions: Student tickets available at the venue, no idea otherwise.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £20. Solid production, good play, great cast.
RZ Other Notes: That said, don’t pay more than you have to. There’s a best available for £15 offer from and the upper circle (where the £10-12 tickets are) was closed the night I went (though the stalls were pretty full) so upgrades to at least the dress circle are likely.

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