Noises Off King’s Theatre

I remember, in my far off youth, watching the late Les Dawson making a complete hash of playing the piano on tv and my mother telling me that his performance was so believable because he could, in fact, play very well. Much the same can be said of the excellent cast - all of whom will have you saying “what was he/she in?” - performing Michael Frayn’s ‘Noises Off’ at the King’s Theatre this week. The play follows the progress of a theatre company rehearsing and performing a classic British Bedroom Farce ‘Nothing On’, and explores the different characters within the company, from the Director, Lloyd Dallas (Neil Pearson) desperately trying to hold the production together, to the slightly dim Freddy Fellowes (Chris Larkin) who looks for a rationale in every aspect of his performance. Along the way we meet the put-upon stage crew Poppy and Tim (Danielle Flett and Simon Bubb), the somewhat naive newcomer Brooke (Tomasin Rand), the gossip loving Belinda (Sasha Waddell), the weary Garry Lejeune (David Bark-Jones) and classic performances as the ‘old-timers’ in the group, Dotty and Selsdon, from Maureen Beattie and Geoffrey Freshwater respectively.

But this is a play-within-a-play, actors playing actors, and needs to be followed simultaneously on two levels. Firstly, there are laughs to be had from the farce which the company is trying to perform. It’s in the classic sixties and seventies style that some may remember from television shows starring Brian Rix and involves much crossing of paths and innuendo. On the second level though, we have a very clever exploration of a host of different characters in the dysfunctional cast and a whole series of ‘are they an item?’ revelations and repercussions. At the same time, the script is jammed full of side-splitting lines which the cast deliver with perfect comic timing.

This is a play which must be very hard for the actors to pull off with the aplomb which this cast manages. Most of the characters are actors playing actors and the script depends on them delivering perfectly timed lines one moment – whilst being the cast member – and with comically poor timing the next, as the character within the farce. This production puts together actors who have the skills and experience – the list of their theatre, television and film credits goes on for pages in the programme – to do it, and to do it very well.

As I said, it is side-splittingly funny as well as being a very perceptive look at theatre itself. It is well worth seeing and if you find the first act amusing, just wait for the rest! Oh, and do try to keep track of the sardines…

Noises Off is at the Kings Theatre, Edinburgh until Saturday 8th June. It is presented by The Old Vic Theatre Company and Directed by Lindsay Posner.

Charlie Cavaye