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Michael Frayn’s unbeatable comedy at the Garrick Theatre
Bursting back on to West End stage with all the fizz of a Barrett’s sherbet fountain the Lyric Hammersmith’s sellout revival of Noises Off, Michael Frayn’s classic farce, is the perfect antidote to political gloom and damp autumn evenings. First premiering at the Lyric in 1982, Jeremy Herrin’s brilliant well-timed production is brimming with pure laugh out magical moments and proves to be a tour de force of stagecraft and comic timing which is bound to pull in the West End audiences across the Christmas season.
The play, which coincides with the legendary author Michael Frayn’s 80th birthday, got his seal of approval on the opening night, as he was seen to be chuckling away to his own words as the ever more frenetic denouement played out.
Noises Off documents the on-stage and backstage comic misadventures that take place during a low budget regional tour of a bedroom farce. Taking the audience by surprise director Lloyd Dallas (an excellent Lloyd Owen) bellows from the stalls, setting the theatrical scene to perfection. The exasperated director is trying desperately to get the show on the road despite it not being fit for practice at the dress rehearsal.
The suave Lloyd is causing backstage havoc as he’s playing the field with both the bemused stagehand Poppy (played by Anjili Mohindra) and the ditsy Brooke Ashton (Lisa McGrillis), girlfriend to estate agent Garry Lejeune (Daniel Rigby). Rigby gives a standout performance as Gary, his comic timing is utterly priceless and his slapstick disasters had me in stitches, it’s a wonder he survived the show in one piece after so many misfortunes.
Meera Syal as Dotty Otley makes a marvellously clownish housekeeper who is struggling to get her stage routine into shape, much to Lloyd’s dismay, she’s forever seen with a plate of rotting sardines or wound up in telephone wires. In fact, there was one classic prop gag that went wrong when the telephone wire broke, but the joy of this show is that any mishap only adds to the mad mix, and in this case, I suspect most of the audience, were none the wiser.
On the run from the taxman is husband Frederick Fellowes (Richard Henders) and his loving wife Belinda Blair, played with a pitch-perfect matronly charm by newly cast Sarah Hadland, they provide the other comedy duo. There’s a tremendous amount of door slamming, mislaid props and of course, Fellowes gets caught with his trousers down.
The second act really ramps it up, only this time we see the backstage version of events, the same gags from another perspective that get increasing frantic and funnier by the minute, the choreography is exactingly delivered (which must have been a director’s nightmare) but with the help of a sterling cast, Herrin pulls it off magnificently.
I loved the poor downtrodden stagehands, Poppy and the accommodating Tim (Adrian Richards), who both try desperately to hold it all together despite a never-ending list of disasters and endless the backstage bickering, which becomes increasingly fraught as the play progresses, not helped by the alcoholic burglar Selsdon Mowbray (Simon Rouse) who stubbles on and off stage at inappropriate moments.
Frayn’s timeless play is just what the theatre audience needs right now, a pure unadulterated multigenerational comedy, skilfully delivered and hilariously funny.
Noises Off is showing at Garrick Theatre until 4th January 2020
2 Charing Cross Rd,
London WC2H 0HH
Looking for pre-theatre dining in the West End? We loved our afternoon tea at the Berners Tavern and will be trying out the food there soon. We’ve also written a handy guide to pre-theatre dining in London’s West End. Scroll down to find out more.