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Have you ever loved a play so much, that you decide to go back and see it all again the next day? Then book for the following Thursday too?
That's what hubby and I did with Noises Off. We saw it in Cardiff last Friday and Saturday and are going to Malvern this week.
Let me tell you more...
Being fans of the actor Colin Baker, we try to see him in as many of his plays as we can, usually travelling to Bath or Cheltenham. But as it was my birthday on October 23rd, we thought we'd go to Cardiff for a change, as Colin was in Noises Off at the New Theatre there.
I didn't know anything much about the play before. I had heard of it and knew it was written by Michael Frayn, but otherwise, nothing. It was to be a night of surprises - the first one being the words on the stage curtain changing from 'Noises Off' to 'Nothing On'. I was intrigued...
We see a fairly standard theatre set - the inside of quite a nice house, two-storey with a staircase and several doors, a sofa, TV, big window and small table. We meet Dotty, the housekeeper of said house, who starts by answering the phone.
Soon, we realise this is a cast rehearsing for a play called Nothing On, which opens the following day. We meet the director, Lloyd, who appears from the back of the stalls and goes onto the stage to sort out the problems of the actors and the set.
This act is fairly straight-forward. We meet the cast and begin to get to know them - both as their character's name and the part they are playing in the play. (This can get confusing! For example, actress Laura Matthews plays Brooke, who is Vicki in Nothing On!)
This act is clever, witty, interesting and funny - but not hilarious. The whole play builds up well from the slight tittering of the first act to the hysterical guffawing of the third!
This is the cleverest act in many ways. The set is reversed, so we now view the back of it. It is a month after the dress rehearsal of the first act and there are plenty of tensions between the cast. We find out about various affairs going on and who has feelings for who and all the conflicts, tensions, jealousy and rivalry coming out of them.
As we see the cast performing Nothing On from a rear view, we are privy to the backstage chaos. This is an act full of physical comedy, especially an impressive array of intricate and fast-moving throwing of props. There is so much going on, that it is hard to know where to look - ideal for repeat viewings!
The final act sees the set back the right way, as it was for the first act. This is a further two months later and by this time, most of the cast and crew are feuding, so they try to trip each other up (often quite literally), while still somehow performing the play.
Again, this is performed at a great pace, ensuring the audience is never bored. By this part, I had tears streaming down my face with laughter and I was full of admiration for the actors and how brilliantly they coped with everything. It must be so hard to remember the script as well as all the running up and down stairs, through doors and windows, while dealing with various props - especially bags, boxes, whisky bottles and plates of sardines.
THE CAST AND CHARACTERS
Now you have an idea of what the play is like, let me tell you about the cast.
Maggie Steed plays Dotty Otley, who is the housekeeper Mrs Clackett in Nothing On. Dotty is a bit of a luvvie, contrasting with her role as working class housekeeper with her headscarf and her desire to watch the 'Royal wotsit' on telly.
Liza Sadovy plays Belinda Blair, who is Flavia Brent in Nothing On, the owner of the house the play is set in. Flavia is upper class, rather a 'jolly hockey sticks' kind of character, but fun and lovable.
Richard Hope plays Frederick Fellowes - Philip Brent in Nothing On, Flavia's husband. Philip is a fairly quiet and practical man, while Freddie is prone to nosebleeds - and fainting at the sight of blood!
Colin Baker plays Selsdon Mowbray, who is the burglar in Nothing On. While Selsdon is a long established actor, he is now an alcoholic, so the cast and crew have to watch him. He can be inclined to disappear and can't be trusted around bottles of whisky!
Ben Hull plays Garry Lejeune, who is Roger Tramplemain, who brings his girlfriend to the house to hopefully impress her into bed. While Roger is flash and showy, out to impress, Garry is almost as confident, but inclined to jealous rages.
Laura Matthews plays Brooke Ashton, who is Vicki, Roger's girlfriend. Vicki is fun, lively, pretty and bubbly, while Brooke is a dizzy blonde who regularly loses a contact lens.
Besides these, who make up the cast, of Nothing On, we have the crew.
Jonathan Coy plays Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On. He expects hard work and is always stressed and conscious of time. He is educated, efficient and a bit of a babe magnet in his spare time!
Sophie Bould plays Poppy, who is the assistant stage manager and general dogsbody. She is quiet, mousey, shy and emotional. She is reliable and willing to help, but gets upset easily.
Ben Allen plays Tim Allgood, who is the stage manager, understudy and general dogsbody. He is shy, helpful and always has good intentions, but works far too hard.
It is very hard to fault any of the cast, as they are all brilliant in these most challenging of roles. We went especially to see Colin Baker and he was excellent as the drunken old pro, the lovable but slightly irritating Selsdon. He emerges from the back of the stalls and the second time we saw the play, we were looking for him. From the moment he arrives, you can see he's in character, with the slightly-too-wide smile that suggests a tad too much booze and a touch of senility.
Besides watching Colin, our attention was soon drawn to Ben Hull, who is outstanding as Garry and Roger. He has a very physical role and his energy is amazing. We met him afterwards and he had his fingers strapped up from an injury he had sustained from the play. (Colin had been injured too.)
Ben Allen is also a very impressive actor, the kind that can convey a whole heap of emotions in a shrug, a hand gesture or a look. We knew exactly when Tim was feeling awkward, stressed or embarrassed and we felt sorry for him. He connected beautifully with the audience and has a talent that deserves the best roles for many years.
The cast is a good mixture of older established stars and relative newcomers. Noises Off is Laura Matthews' first professional role, but you wouldn't know it, she holds her own expertly. She provides the eye candy for the blokes in the audience too, as she performs most of the play in sexy black undies!
After the play, we met the cast, got autographs from them and had photos taken with them. Everyone was really lovely. We had a nice chat with Colin the first night, but missed him on the Saturday and Ben Hull kindly asked the theatre staff where he might be, despite it being a rainy night and they were all rushing off home for the weekend.
When we go to see the play in Malvern, we are taking two of the kids with us as well, as I'm sure they'll enjoy it. It is the kind of play that is so brilliant, so much fun and so hilarious, that you want all your friends and family to see it.
If it's anywhere near you, do go. You'll have a ball! Check the official site for tour dates. After Malvern, it's going to Milton Keynes, Wimbledon, Bromley and Bradford.
OFFICIAL 2008 TOUR WEBSITE
Also, Laura Matthews has a Facebook group called "Noises Off National Tour (& my first job!)".
My usual theatre trips take in mainly musicals, so when my daughter announced that she was taking us to see a play for my husband's birthday I viewed it with some scepticism. Especially as I had to work on the day, which meant dashing from class, quick change, and straight down the underground! However, I need not have worried. I cannot remember a time when I have laughed so much that I was physically unable to move! The Venue. Noises Off is staged at the Picadilly Theatre, which is literally just around the corner from Picadilly Circus Station (exit 4), so travelling is easy. There are several eating places within a few paces of the theatre if you fancy a bite before the performance, and even more drinking places if you want a drink. To be frank, I would not advise this, as wetting your knickers could become a reality! The Theatre. Not one of the capital's largest, but our seats were fairly comfortable, and from our position (four rows from the front) we had a perfect view of the stage. My one complaint was the service at the interval. We wanted two coffees and a tea, and it must have taken the one girl who was serving over 10 minutes to have them ready. Some people who were behind us in the queue didn't even bother ordering, and I had to leave half my cup of tea because the call back bell went and it was still too hot. Maybe the other bars were better and we just happened to choose the wrong one. The Cast. Dotty Otley......Isla Blair Lloyd Dallas.....Peter Egan Garry ...........Robert Portal Brook Ashton.....Natalie Walter Poppy............Selina Griffiths Belinda Blair....Susie Blake Frederick .......Chris Langham Tim..............Paul Thorney Selsdon..........Christopher Benjamin Written by Michael Frayn The Play. The play is called Noises Off, and is essentially a play within a play. The action begins with the cast at final rehe
arsals of a play they are about to put on, called Nothing On. As is usual with dress rehearsals, nothing is going right. Poor old Dotty cannot remember whether she has to take the plate of sardines off with her, or should that be the newspapers? And what about the phone? Replace the handset or just put it down on the table. All the while, Peter Egan's voice is giving instructions and advice (as the director) and one assumes that this is being relayed by tape. Not so. Peter Egan suddenly appears complete with microphone from among the audience, then melts back into oblivion to issue more stage instructions. One by one the cast of Nothing On make their appearances. There is Brook, the dumb blond, who, it later turns out, is being bedded by Lloyd, who is also bedding Poppy the sound and lighting girl. There is Garry, the odd job man, who has to fix sticking doors etc, and also fill in if any of the cast is incapacitated! He is not one of the brightest lights! Then there is Selsdon, a recovering alcoholic who has a tendency to go amongst the missing! In this first half, you can see how Nothing On is going to be performed, and how the cast prepare for opening night. In fact, this act is probably the least funny in the whole play, although there were some scenes that raised an audience titter. After the interval comes what in my mind is the funniest third of the show. The action takes place cleverly behind the curtain at a performance of the play. In fact, as the cast disappear through the curtain, you can hear the entire play taking place exactly as rehearsed in the first act, but you cannot see it. What you can see is the chaos behind the scenes. Selsdon gets the bottle, Dotty rescues it, Poppy is desperate to speak to Lloyd, Brook wants the flowers, and poor old Garry is in the midst of it all. People fall down stairs, things are dropped, and all the time you can hear the play taking place. What is being seen is, in f
act, almost entirely mime. And it is so incredibly funny! My daughter nudged me at one point to be quiet because I was laughing so loudly. Scene three takes place on the final showing at the final venue of the tour. By this time, hardly anyone is speaking to anyone else, nobody cares what happens in the play, poor Poppy is pregnant, Selsdon has 2 understudies on stage as well as himself because they cannot take the risk that he has found the bottle, and there are so many sardines on display! The posters outside declare this play as being one of the funniest around, and I must certainly endorse this. I am not a great lover of plays, but this one really did have me falling about with laughter. I would certainly recommend it as a jolly good, entertaining night out, and it does not break the bank either so far as ticket prices go. Prices. Booking: www.ticketmaster.co.uk Special Offer Save more than 50% on top price tickets for just £15 Offer valid for Mon to Thurs shows at 7.30pm and Wed & Sat 2.30pm matinees Tickets subject to availability 0870 443 0097 Quote "Whatsonstage.com offer" Newspaper reviews have been good. The Daily Telegraph stated that it was "Brilliantly written, beautifully acted and technically ingenious". If you do fancy a night out in London, and want to have a good laugh, then I suggest you get down to the Picadilly. You won't be disappointed.
Noises Off is a canny send up of all things farcical. You know the kind of play that you are dragged to when you are a child. Bemused you sit there as a woman runs on stage in a pair of knickers and a bra followed by a red faced vicar and a handyman who says: "I've fixed it. It wasn't hard!!" Personally I have never gone for the farce in a big way. I have always thought of them as being 'end of the pier' entertainment and only the late great Les Dawson made me laugh during a farce and that's only because he didn't stick to the script! He pulled faces at me as I soon as I walked into the theatre. He was eating his lunch in the foyer! He continued to ad lib on stage and gave the farce a new treatment. But- here I was in London- half term- no teaching for a week! No purpose in life, no marking to do and a funny bone that needed tickling! "I haven't done my homework because my dog ate it" was beginning to lose its laughter effect on me! I bumbled around the West End like a wasp and ended up in Piccadilly. There before me was a billboard stating: "The funniest show in London." Like an advertiser's dream- in I walked to see Noises Off at the Piccadilly theatre. As I walked in - all round me were older theatre-goers. Some of them were speaking in hushed tones. Others had clearly seen the show before as they were recalling the ..."do you remember the bit when...." tales! So having avoided plot spoliers I sat down with my box of maltesters (less noisy than Werther's Originals! which everyone seemed to be eating!) and got ready to laugh. I didn't have long to wait! Noises Off follows a theatre group as they attempt to tour with a farce entitled "Nothing On." The images of my first description of a farce rang true when I saw the cast members acting out the farce. Yes, there was a girl in a bra and knickers but no vicar in sight! Seriously, the clever part of t
his play is that we follow the cast of Nothing On onstage and off. So during the first act we see the play as the audience would see it. As the play continues we get to see the fascinating actors who are playing the parts. Isla Blair plays Dotty Otley the housekeeper in Nothing On. The actress obviously would like to star in something more serious and does not like carrying plates of sardines on stage every night but it's work - "darling!" Think Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques and her actress persona and that's Dotty! Peter Egan (Ever Decresing Circles) plays Lloyd Dallas the producer of Nothing On. He made most of the audience jump as they presumed that the voice echoing throughout the theatre was on tape! But then Peter Egan appeared behind many of the audience! (Werther's Originals hit the floor!) He attempts to keep the play on the road but soon finds that alcohol may be his only salvation. Sleeping with the cast members does not help his cause and leads to more farce off stage than it does on! Robert Portal is Garry - the handyman who ends up acting in the play due to several members either arguing or being drunk! He also has to fill in when many of the cast are hitting each other! Natalie Walter is Brooke- daft as a brush- the girl in the bra and knickers who works for the inland revenue! Also along for the ride are Susie Blake, Chris Langham, Paul Thornley and Christopher Benjamin. The whole plot pivots on the fact that backstage it is total chaos. Extra marital affairs, alcohol, jealousy, and rising egos all lead to farcical situations that the funniest playwright could only dream about. We, the real audience get a real treat because we see what both sides leading to some of the cleverest comedy scenes I have ever seen in the theatre. Imagine Airplane crossed with Run For Your Wife and this goes some way to explaining the genre of this comedy classic. The lady next to me was
laughing so much, she almost choked! (There's a quote for the poster!). Noises Off is fast paced, funny and breathtakingly original. It does not let up for one second. The cast bravely fall over, bump into doors and generally have a ball. The one thing which keeps the whole thing ticking over and tickling your funny bone is : TIMING! The comic timing is spot on and with such a large cast - each one has to be applauded. The stage set is immaculate and puts up with a right old hammering as bits of the stage fall to bits in the second half- as the play within a play literally falls apart. Clothes go missing, people are literally glued to the set. All the wahile- despite your better judgments, you will laugh out loud. Saucy postcard humour mixed with the amazing acrobatic skill of the cast and a cracking script ensure that much. The only danger is that you laugh so much during the first hour that you may lose the will to laugh so heartily in the last section of the play. But there is so much to enjoy here- do not let that put you off. The British sense of humour has taken a bit of a battering lately and people are in need of a real belly laugh. If you need laughs on prescription because you are fed up of a diet of Anthrax, bombs, and more doom and gloom on the news, Noises Off is definitely for you. Thanks for reading, Glenn For more info- keep reading ============================================= CAST Dotty Otley............. ISLA BLAIR Lloyd Dallas.............PETER EGAN Garry Lejune.............ROBERT PORTAL Brooke Ashton............NATALIE WALTER Poppy Norton-Taylor......SELINA GRIFFITHS Belinda Blair............SUSIE BLAKE Frederick Felllowes......CHRIS LANGHAM Tim Allgood..............PAUL THORNEY Selsdon Mowbray..........CHRISTOPHER BENJAMIN Written by: MICHAEL FRAYN www.noisesoff.co.uk Venue: Piccadily Theatre Booking: www.ticketmaster.co.uk SPECIAL TICKET OFFER Save more than 50% on top price tickets just £15! With this offer, you can nab top-price tix (normally up to £35) for just £15!! The offer is valid for Mon to Thur shows at 7.30pm, & Wed & Sat 2.30pm matinees to 30 Nov 2001. Tickets are subject to availability 0870 443 0097 Quote "Whatsonstage.com offer" REVIEWS "Brilliantly written, beautifully acted and technically ingenious. It's a comic masterpiece that makes you fall in love with theatre all over again" - Daily Telegraph "If you haven't seen it, go. If you have, go again" - Daily Express "It's even funnier now" - Financial Times "An extraordinary feat of stopwatch timing and comic physicality….A joy for cast and audience" - Whatsonstage.com