The 40th Anniversary of Noises Off 

It’s back

Here at the Phoenix Theatre after Come From Away ended on 7th January. Tonight was press night and it’s been back a week, so it’s a packed theatre and the atmosphere was palpable…. until we got off the ground.

This restless audience, at least those around me, didn’t settle down until well into Felicity Kendall’s opening lines. Someone’s phone ringing with Blondie “Keep me hanging on the telephone” while Felicity’s character was actually on the phone was mildly amusing. Do we still have to remind folks ? Then the elderly gentleman behind decided he wasn’t comfortable and disrupted several rows while he got to the aisle, only to realise he couldn’t find his glasses. More rumbling about.

NOISES OFF – Felicity Kendal (Dotty) © Nobby Clark

Settle down folks. Get to your seats 10 minutes early if you have people with you who are a bit excitable, or don’t settle well, people have paid lots of money to get to see a theatre show, so please don’t spoil their enjoyment.  There, said it.

Now back to the fun.

It’s one of my favourite plays which means I’m a bit of a specialist and therefore more picky but I’ll try to be cognisant of that.  With the start being more of a farce in the audience I then took a while to connect, so I’ll take that into consideration too.

So for those who don’t know Michael Frayn’s play it’s a play within a play, which makes the actors role quite tough. They have three characters to take on stage and they effectively have three plays. The overall Noises Off, the touring Nothing On, and the backstage of Nothing On. So you get the actor playing a character who is an actor, who is playing another character. Now for the most part, we don’t particularly care if we don’t see that, but when we do, it’s a work of art. For me, there was only one actor who nailed it. Tracy-Ann Oberman. She was stunning to watch from the start. She had that edge where we got to see her bringing out the best of the characters and really delighting the audience and herself it seemed. She was on fire.  That’s what London audiences deserve to see. A master of their craft in action.

NOISES OFF – Tracy-Ann Oberman (Belinda) & Jonathan Coy (Frederick) © Nobby Clark

When we single out a single actor, it doesn’t mean the others didn’t shine. They did, they had to. This isn’t a play where the actor gets off lightly. Every single role needs to work to perfection. There’s a vast amount of interaction, comedy timing, bizarre events, prat falls and many things that could well go wrong, and may well do, on each performance. We probably wouldn’t notice as the actors are top notch to ensure they keep the flow.

Two minor things ?  I wanted the sterotypically “ditzy blonde” to be blonde and more ditzy, and the production assistant to be a little older to make the producer’s kiss less creepy.

Other than that, it’s definitely value for money to see this play. It’s laughs all the way and in it’s 40th year, it deserves to be one of those long runners. The cast will only get better and the evenings more fun for them (especially now that the nervous press night is over).

Well done for bringing this classic back and I wish Noises Off many more years in it’s new home at Phoenix Theatre.


NOISES OFF – Joseph Millson (Garry), Alexander Hanson (Lloyd), Hubert Burton (Tim) & Sasha Frost (Brooke) © Nobby Clark