Review - Noises Off at the Lyric Hammersmith
Michael Frayn’s comedy Noises Off returns to the Lyric Hammersmith where it premiered over 30 years ago and while Jeremy Herrin’s new production is hectically funny, those who attended on press night saw technical difficulties which saw the play about a play that goes wrong, go wrong.
The play opens with a rehearsal for a touring production of the play Nothing On, which introduces us to inept actors including Meera Syal’s woeful Dotty and Daniel Rigby’s frenetic Garry. Director Lloyd (Lloyd Dallas) wanders the stalls of the Lyric in despair at his actors’ incompetence, little in the know that tensions are building backstage as well as on it.
Accusations of affairs drive the cast of six to breaking point in the second act, which we experience from backstage at a venue halfway along the tour of dreary seaside towns. When the play finally goes up, a hilarious silent scene builds as the actors and stage managers try to get the better of each other, throwing costumes and even wielding axes all while attempting to deliver their lines on the other stage of the set.
That lasted about 15 minutes, and had built up a real flow before, on press night, the lights dimmed and Noises Off’s stage manager announced technical difficulties had brought the show to a pause. While disappointing for most productions, the sheer irony added somewhat to the comedy here.
What I realised was the sheer energy and pace with which the show was being performed: Where do you begin to reset such a fast-moving production, with actors and props constantly on the move with great accuracy? When this show hits its stride, it’s performed with such satisfying timing.
While Herrin’s pacy production is partly responsible, it’s also a testament to Frayn’s intricate script. There is so much going on, characters (and sardines) constantly whirring around, it must take a stroke of either genius or madness to imagine and plan something so farcical on paper.
Rigby’s all-out performance as the nervous, angry Garry is a real standout, especially as he reaches the end of his tether in the third act. Debra Gillet as the seasoned actor Belinda who keeps pulling the strings, while I found Amy Morgan’s Brooke, who can only deliver her lines while her cast mates improvise around the ensuing chaos, to be one of the show’s funniest characters.
Last week, Present Laughter injected some much-needed comedy into the West End, a standout performance and something that’s easy to relax and enjoy. Now at the Lyric, you have a real ensemble effort coming together to deliver a classic British farce and plenty more laughs.
Noises Off tickets are available now.
Photo credit Helen Maybanks