Olivia Rook, Critics’ Circle Main Editor
Nottingham Playhouse’s most recent production, Noises Off, has wowed Critics’ Circle this time round, with a unanimous consensus that this is one of the best plays they have seen at the theatre! With farcical mistakes and slapstick comedy throughout, it was impossible to hold back the laughs. Beginning with a terribly unprepared dress rehearsal and ending with a performance near the end of its run, the play ‘Nothing On’ stretches its cast members to their limits. With missed cues, accidents and bizarre plates of sardines constantly appearing, this play within a play made for a hilarious night at the theatre. Although some of Critics’ Circle found the repetition of scenes somewhat tiresome, others commended the actors for managing to perform the same lines with great variation. One thing is for sure – this year’s Critics’ Circle would be more than happy to welcome back the cast of Noises Off!
Alice Malyon – Review
Noises Off was an absolute hoot. The entire Critics’ Circle crowd was squealing with delight, and also, recognition.
The plot details a theatre company rehearsing a play, where everything that could possibly go wrong does. This sounds simple in premise and it is, but the layered acting and mannerisms were hilariously accurate for anyone who’s ever spent any time in the theatre. From the pet names to the cast gossip, with the typically stressed and dressed-in-plaid director, it was spot on. Most brilliantly of all, the awful, awful thing all actors do, usually when it’s getting really late into rehearsals, is the ‘why’ question. ‘WHY do I take this box offstage?’ Spiritually, emotionally, WHY? A troubled childhood or past trauma is usually the go-to. It was just hilarious.
Notably, the primary point to be commended was the sheer discipline and speed of the actors’ line delivery and choreography. The play was like a clock, cogs whirring and moving individually; the farcical wit required precision and visceral punch and that it got.
The second half revealed a set spun around to reveal ‘backstage’, and the sequence that followed was honestly iconic. The cast played the comedy of fighting through a play that was entirely falling apart with comic excellence, sheer brilliance in fact. Little interactions, such as shoelaces being tied or minor fights were hilarious and played to perfection.
Overall I’d completely recommend Noises Off. It made for a side-splittingly funny night at the theatre. Oh it was a good one.
Best Of The Season – Poppy Cook Review
Noises Off is a play within a play, and not only that, but a farce within a farce, so it is packed with comedy. I am often sceptical when going to see a comedy, as sometimes what other people find hilarious doesn’t amuse me at all; however, I thoroughly enjoyed Noises Off, and so much so that I would say it has been my favourite play this season at the Nottingham Playhouse.
The story follows a group of diverse individuals – including the good moments and (lots of) the bad – throughout rehearsals of their production and whilst in performance. It incorporates many aspects of putting on a play including backstage disputes, technical errors and on-stage malfunctions. For me this play was particularly funny as the characters were relatable to people I’ve previously worked with whilst participating in a production.
The comic timing was perfectly executed by each of the actors, and there wasn’t a moment where the energy seemed to fall flat. It was clear by the amount of sweat dripping down the actors’ faces at the curtain call how much of their energy went into the fast-paced production. All actors performed so energetically throughout that it was impossible for me to pick a favourite character.
The set design was incredibly clever, showing both on-stage and back-stage and at several points both simultaneously, emphasising how much drama can go on while the curtain is up!
I don’t know if Noises Off would be as enjoyable with no experience in theatre but I personally would love to see it for a second time, and highly recommend it.
Doors, Sardines, Boxes and Bags! – Isabella Elliott Review
On the 13th April I saw Noises Off, knowing nothing about the play until half an hour before the show. It was introduced by Blanche McIntyre, the Director, who explained her approach and how excited she was to be working on such a famous play by Michael Frayn.
Doors, sardines, boxes and bags: these are probably the most used words in the play. However, there is much more to it than that. This incredibly high-paced farce tells the story of a chaotic cast and everything that could go wrong during the rehearsal process and show run.
The use of the classic red curtain made an immediate association with amateur dramatics and classic slap-stick comedy. The set was stereotypical for this form of theatre, with lots of different entrances and exits; even so, it allowed for a warm, comforting feel on stage. The set of stairs created two levels and added to some hilarious moments of comedy. In the second half the set is inverted to reveal back-stage, giving an effective sense of being there with the troupe. It was hilarious to see the performance from behind the scenes with the physicality of silent action reaching fever pitch.
Each actor had clearly defined characters, even though they were playing actors playing parts. When I watched it for the second time, I realised that both Patrick Osborne (Garry) and Carla Mendonça (Dotty) were in one of my favourite childhood shows – My Parents are Aliens! I was so amazed because when I was little I really looked up to them and now I’ve been in the same theatre as them.
I thoroughly enjoyed this play, it’s not something I’d normally go and see but it’s a laugh-out loud comedy definitely worth seeing twice, if not three times!
Eve James – Review
Before arriving at the theatre I only knew that people considered Noises Off a classic piece of comedy. After sitting through this play, I have to agree. The production was a real delight to say the very least. It had every aspect of good comedy included. You may have to have a certain sense of humour to enjoy the comedy, but in my eyes it was a thoroughly enjoyable piece. The actors were terrific and I can’t imagine how tired they must have felt afterwards. However, I felt that one scene in which the curtain was dropped was unnecessary and rather confusing. Aside from this scene, I felt the show was pure genius.
Iman Aslam – Review
Noises Off is a wonderfully comedic collection of all the possible mishaps one could experience during rehearsals and performances of a production. Not only did I appreciate the hilarity of the play but I also found it to be very intelligently put together.
The first half of the performance depicted a band of characters in rehearsal fumbling and making mistakes with only hours until the first performance. Each actor illustrated a distinct type of character, a few examples are: someone who doesn’t pay much attention, someone who is having an affair with another in the production, someone who forgets what they’re supposed to be doing and even someone who gets drunk on set! All of these attributes contribute to a disaster of a rehearsal.
The second half of the production was filled with even more havoc and vivacity. I was impressed by the fact that a large proportion of the play was conducted in silence and was still uproarious. During the second act the audience was permitted to see everything that went on backstage at a show; we saw the cast practically deteriorate into madness whilst they attempted to keep a good show on at the front. As I mentioned earlier, all of this was done in silence and the actors must’ve been exhausted as there was practically always something extravagantly funny happening on stage.
The production was so well done that I feel as though there was hardly a moment’s silence where the audience weren’t in stitches! The actors also managed to make the audience feel included simply by the way they used facial expressions and physical movements. The set of the play was simple but effective with multiple doors which surprisingly played a large part in the play. For example, on multiple occasions all of the characters were on stage but in different rooms and were oblivious to each other’s presence. Personally, I have nothing dissatisfactory to say about the production as I found it to be one of the most genuinely funny and well put together pieces of comedic theatre I have ever seen.
Ted Hepburn – Review
Noises Off is an absolutely hilarious play. The audience barely stopped laughing throughout. The first half of the play focuses on a group of actors desperately trying to get a play into shape in the final hours before the first show. It’s abundantly clear to the audience that it needs a bit more work. The characters’ futile efforts only serve to cause yet more mishaps. At one point in the play, a series of classic misunderstandings take place and do not fail to deliver on humour.
Michael Frayn’s play, now seen as a classic British comedy, is a farce about a group of actors set to perform the farce Nothing On. We see the play in rehearsal from backstage, and finally, we share in the full horror of the ‘last legs’ of the tour. By the end of the third act, the cast are forced to ad-lib in a last-ditch attempt to save the play. It’s a great show that should not be missed.
Thanks very much to Critics’ Circle for the chance to see the play!
Noises Off… The Funny is On! – Mikolai Szybkowski Review
Things can only get better, right? That’s one thing you really can’t say in this production. We are greeted by the famous red curtain in front of the stage, hiding all of the disasters which are to follow. From forgetting lines to people being almost hit with an axe, this show has it all. Despite all this drama for the characters, for the audience it brings some of the greatest comedic moments you will have ever seen, leaving the whole theatre belly-laughing for the entire night.
At the start of the play things seem very strange – after all, this is not your usual naturalistic Shakespeare. We are greeted by Dotty, or are we? We soon find out ‘Dotty’ (played by Carla Mendonca) is in fact a very forgetful actress in the middle of a very bad rehearsal, just one day before the first show. Dotty is then interrupted by an audience member… or so we think. Things are never as they seem in this play. As director Lloyd Dallas (played by Orlando Wells) comes out from the audience and directs from the front of the stage, we realise this is a world within a world: a play within a play. This effect is truly engaging throughout and creates the funniest piece of theatre around at the moment.
This is a truly unmissable performance where we see the process of theatre from every angle, and see that the end of every play might just be the beginning. So funny it’s sure to leave you falling off your…
Patrick Daunt – Review
Noises Off is a farce about a theatrical production that goes wrong in almost every possible way. From mental breakdowns to alcoholism, forgetting lines to missing cues, and falling down the stairs to top things off, it has it all…
One of my favourite things about the show was its set, which was, of course, a second set – (at least for the first half of the show). The middle was set backstage, and for this section they rotated the set, leaving some of the real backstage exposed. This double set still felt natural and the cast’s use of it was excellent, making it feel like the audience was watching genuine rehearsals in the first half.
One of the main problems I had with the show was the way it was structured. With a rehearsal and two separate performances forming the play, the audience heard variations of the same lines three times. On the first performance, this seemed clever and witty as we saw the actors delivering lines in different ways because of their predicaments. However, by the third time I started to feel like it needed a bit of a mix up which, although it did receive this to an extent, wasn’t quite enough to stop it from becoming ever-so-slightly tedious. Despite this, in terms of comedy, I thought the entire piece was perfectly put together. Judging from the volume of laughter in the auditorium, I’m sure that the rest of the audience agreed.
Chloe Brearley – Review
I saw the play Noises Off last night. I thought the play was really funny and I enjoyed it. I would recommend this play to my friends. It was about people rehearsing a play and things kept going wrong for them. For example, somebody forgot their lines, someone lost their contact lens so she couldn’t see, and also two girls lifted their heads at the same time, which caused them both injuries.
During the second act there were even more issues. The scene was backstage of the play they had been rehearsing. Someone fell down the stairs; the stairs were at an awkward angle. I haven’t got a favourite character because they were all very good. They used a lot of props during the play. The setting was in a house; they showed you scenes upstairs and downstairs. There was a little bit of music throughout the play.
The lighting was appropriate to the play they were rehearsing, and the first act had red light shining on the stage. The costumes varied depending on the character they played. There were men in suits, ladies wore casual dresses and some people wore bandanas. I thought the costumes stood out. The play left me happy and I couldn’t stop talking about it. I kept laughing out loud!
Nottingham Playhouse presents Noises Off,
A play full of shock and chaos.
With a know-it-all director
And the cast giving each other what for,
Even when everything goes wrong,
The show must always go on!
With lovable characters and humorous twists,
It’s certainly not a show to be missed!
Filled with slapstick comedy and an amazing set,
It’s definitely the best show I’ve seen yet!
Georgie Daunt – Review
Noises Off is a farce that should appeal to all people who have been involved in the theatre. The first act is the last minute technical rehearsal – just a few hours before the performance – and includes the actors, director and backstage team. The second act covers two different performances, gradually descending into more and more chaos.
I felt that the work the actors put in was incredible. As the play is set over the rehearsal and two performances, the actors had to repeat the same scenes and lines in very different ways with different interjections from the ‘actors’ and ‘team’. They did this very well and we could believe that the ‘actors’ were playing their characters as often their own mannerisms were clear in the ‘characters’.
The set was magnificent, showing the stage in the first act and ‘backstage’ in the second, before transforming back into the stage for the last scene. As the comedic play within a play was about “doors and sardines” the set was full of doors being constantly opened and banged shut – in true farce style – which the actors all navigated amazingly from both ‘onstage’ and ‘backstage’.
To conclude, I would recommend this play to anybody who is after a good laugh, especially those who have worked in an ammeter production before, as a lot of the characters will be very relatable.
Tamzin Wynn – Review
Noises Off is a play within a play. Many doors are opened and shut, with sardines becoming an essential part of the play. Confused yet? The plot is based on almost everything that could go wrong in a play, which then happens, such as someone falling down the stairs, people forgetting their lines and even the curtain being pulled down when the play had finished.
Noises Off premièred at the Lyric theatre, Hammersmith, London in 1982 and was then directed by Michael Blakemore. In the second part of the play it shows behind the scenes where the actors are preparing to perform. In my opinion, this was my favourite part of the play, as I couldn’t stop laughing. There seemed to be some sort of love triangle between the actors in their personal lives. The set consisted of the inside of a house, which had plenty of doors, a window and a staircase. There was simple furniture in the downstairs. When Garry falls down the stairs the sound effects were super! They made the moment as realistic as possible – this was the best special effect used.
The costumes for each character suited their age perfectly. The make-up was bold and really quite messy; sweat dripped down some of the characters faces and this was to give the effect of stress and tiredness from all the rushing around they did. The play is a comedy and expresses the theme of love when showing the backstage scene. The play is first showed as a rehearsal when the characters forget lines and the director is shown helping them. Then you are shown the backstage when the actors are about to perform. Finally you are shown the performance from the front of the set being poorly performed, when the plot has changed and almost everything goes wrong.
This is by far the best production I have seen and I wanted to watch it again immediately. I have gained a lot of knowledge of how difficult it really is to forget about personal problems when acting as a character.
A Perfectly Choreographed Disaster – Louisa Barton Review
This was one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen. I have never laughed so hard in my life and would definitely see it again. The way it was set was perfect and provided a suitable background to all actions in the play. The choreography was perfect and displayed the characters feelings and thoughts about both the play and one another flawlessly. I enjoyed every second of it and would recommend it to a friend.
It is the Playhouse’s funniest production yet, and I would love to see more like it.
The Playhouse has raised the bar once again.
Sarosha Byrne – Review
Noises Off is a comedic take on the horrors and delights which can occur in rehearsal, backstage and onstage during the production of a play. The plot is centred around a group of nine individuals trying to perform a play called ‘Nothing On’ but are, quite frankly, hopeless at remembering lines and keeping track of props.
I really enjoyed Blanche McIntyre’s production of the play because it engaged the audience and the actors were brilliant. I felt the enjoyment of the play really came from the cast’s ability to deliver the jokes well and make the audience burst into laughter.
In the first act, the audience senses exasperation from the cast and director of ‘Nothing On’ and gets an insight into how unprepared the cast is for their first performance, even though it is approaching rapidly. The use of running gags and the motto of the show: ‘Sardines and doors’ makes the audience feel involved with the production of ‘Nothing On’ and want to see the final performance, somehow, be achieved.
The second act, backstage, helped give the actors of ‘Nothing On’ their own characters and dimensions and demonstrated that the show is not just about performing the play. The second act was brilliantly acted, because the majority of it was mimed, causing the cast to accentuate body language and mouth movement.
Overall, I would highly recommend grabbing tickets while you still can because the play was brilliant and the moral of the story is that the show must go on.
Eliza Hill – Review
Noises Off is absolutely hilarious! From a person who hasn’t seen many comedies, I can say that this production has made me want to see more but also, as an actress, I quite fancy challenging myself by participating in one! Noises Off is a play that runs around two hours – the two hours are full of humorous events and situations. As an actor is takes skill to perfectly execute these stunts and events on stage. I fully appreciate how hard and difficult this must be to get across to an audience repeatedly every single night. In my opinion, I think the concept of the play is fantastic; for once it makes the actors in the audience find something to relate to which I really enjoyed. However, I think the play was a little too long and this lowered some of the comedic value. The same stunts were occurring and I felt it was a little boring and it started to show that this was rehearsed. But, on the whole I really enjoyed it! 5 stars from me!
Production photography by Robert Day