Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Review of fantastic British farce
There were points when I was literally crying with laughter at this wonderful Olivier award-winning farce as it spiralled deeper and deeper into chaos.
Comedy Noises Off at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre
It has been 30 years since it's creation by playwright Michael Frayn, yet it still manages to keep a new generation of audiences laughing.
Maybe it's success is down to its self-mockery, that at the heart of this comedy is the hilarity of what is so quintessentially British - the attitude that the "show must go on" despite everything falling down around you; the over-polite courtesy offered to even your greatest foe; and the heart-warming spirit of pulling together when facing adversity.
Following various points in the tour of a disasterous theatre group, Noises Off cleverly features the same act in a play three times but from different perspectives at differing points of time.
We start off with the lackadaisical dress rehearsal, when the audience gets introduced to the eclectic "luvvies" and their relationships while they practise a shambolic play.
Among them is the sarcastic demoralised director (a wonderfully acerbic Neil Pearson, formerly of Drop the Dead Donkey), the females he has been two-timing, the ageing passionate actress (fantastic Maureen Beattie) dating a much younger actor, the oafish bumbling lead, the drunken unreliable elderly actor, and the naive backstage hand.
Fun and capers in Noises Off
After the interval, we move on to the actual show but viewed from backstage as the characters fall out in spectacular fashion. It is down to the wonderful comic timing of all the cast that they manage to pull off such hilarity.
Rushing on for their parts while also silently getting into fights, tantrums and escapades when not on stage, the smooth technician of such difficult work is a credit to them all.
It helps that there are plenty of actors with an impressive back-catalogue of comedy including Neil Pearson and Maureen Beattie, while David Bark-Jones is impressive as heartbroken Garry. But the whole cast is particularly strong.
The play climaxes as we reach the last show of the tour when the characters are all slightly fraught and losing the plot (literally). It's a peculiar, crazy and charming finale - but I did say that this was quintessentially British.
Neil Pearson brings his repertoire of comedy to Noises Off