Theatre Review: Noises Off at Theatre Royal

Words: Louise Ahern
Thursday 01 February 2024
reading time: min, words

A play production descends into award winning comedy chaos...

The intoxicating familiar smell of the Theatre Royal, the evergreen paint on the wood, the jockeying for position of the audience taking their seats, the bright lights going down, and the velvet curtain lifting up. As we gradually spring forward into a new season, we step back into the 80s for Noises Off. The farcical spoof, a play-within-a-play by the fantastic Michael Frayn, that explores this theatrical term for distracting off stage goings on.


The first act sets the scene and gets us acquainted with the characters and their stage personas with their director, brilliantly performed by Simon Shepherd, surprising the audience by initially immersing himself offstage.

We’re introduced instantly to their aptly named performance, ‘Nothing On’. An older ogling man, a younger women in a world of her own, a cleaner in a tizzy who’s plans have gone out the window, an alcoholic, a tax evading couple, hiding in rooms, and disappearing bags. The sardines are the star of the show, as well as rattling doors, and stockings and suspenders. 


We’re then taken behind the scenes where there are more twists and tangles between the actors than with their onstage characters. The backstage crew Poppy and Tim only make matters worse by confusing the audience with their auditorium announcements. 

Dropping the sardines, a prickling cactus, three bunches of flowers, whisky, trousers falling down, squabbling brawls, mixed up props, cues, lines; the farce, purposefully silly, is a genius microcosm of how trying to control anything or anyone turns into mayhem.

The final act takes us to a catastrophic performance of the play at the end of its tour. The actors are at the end of their tether and the show has evolved to something hilariously incomprehensible. They're losing the will to act, bad improvisation, and the inability to go off-script in a wonderful performance of Vicki by the marvellous Lisa Ambalavanar.

A seriously laugh-out-loud, eye-watering performance, the multi-award winning Noises Off is unquestionably not to be missed.

Noises Off plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 3 February 2024.

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