City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Noises Off, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 25 June 2010

Noises Off
Show Details
Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Ken Alexander (director), Ken Harrison (set and costume designer), Simon Wilkinson (lighting designer), Raymond Short (fight director), Jane Morris (stage manager)
Jacqueline Dutoit (Dotty Otley), David Delve (LLoyd Dallas), Greg Powrie (Garry Lejeune), Kate Quinnell (Brooke Ashton), Naomi Lee Shulke (Poppy Norton-Taylor), Graham Vick (Frederick Fellowes), Lindsey Danvers (Belinda Blair), George Rae (Tim Allgood), Martyn James (Selsdon Mowbray).

Mistakes abound in this production - and each and every one of them is perfectly timed and executed.

Noises Off is a farce within a farce where the audience literally goes behind the scenes to witness the touring cast of “Nothing On” pull off double-entendres, door handles and trousers in an attempt to pull off a final few productions. It has won numerous awards and has been described both as the funniest play ever written and also as playwright Michael Frayn’s love letter to this form of theatre.

The plot hardly matters (the preposterous plot of Nothing On even less so) but, in short, we see Act one in dress rehearsal; again on tour a month later and finally roughly 2 months on, towards the end of the run. It’s the device of letting us see the backstage action in the second Act 1 that gives it its real allure.

Novelist and playwright John Mortimer said “Farce is tragedy played at a thousand revolutions per minute”, and that is just what we have here. While the on-stage action careers at breathless pace, backstage love triangles go pear-shaped and personal relationships disintegrate in the wings.

The humour may stem for the cast’s discomfiture but there are laughs aplenty. There is something deeply funny about watching someone fall over – even more so when nine people do so in a balletic crescendo. It’s a play that has to be done so slickly that, despite the improbable plot, the audience will suspend belief and forget that they are watching actors acting at being exaggerated actors, acting.

The cast here is finely balanced, never putting a foot wrong and we are able to credit that they actually are a, somewhat dysfunctional and dissolving, band of players. Perhaps it is this that makes the end feel a little unsatisfactory as it really does all descend into farce.

While funnier plays have taken to the stage in the near 30 years since Noises Off was written, it’s a love letter that the audience was more than willing to take to its heart.

Show run

Performances at Pitlochry Festival Theatre throughout the summer season until 16th October.