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Alarms and Excursions (Tour - Oxford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Maybe it is just my current mood but writing a review of Alarms and Excursions has proved more difficult than most other recent projects. Is this a reflection on the piece, the production or is it just me?

Taking the script first and foremost – it is an unusual collection of 8 playlets of varying lengths to be performed by a cast of 4. With this sort of structure, you are reminded more of revue rather than an evening of short plays. There are flashes of the brilliant combination of words, character and action that made Frayn's name with Noises Off but overall I felt that there was a lack of clear direction in the writing as a whole with not quite enough to link all of the pieces together into a fully cohesive evening. There are some hilarious moments but there are also points where things are just a little too extended.

Looking at the production and the performances – all 4 actors do sterling work throughout the evening. They are clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves and this communicates well with the audience. There are a couple of moments where the cast disappeared from view (at least from my position in the stalls) and that meant I missed some of the physical comedy. I appreciate that a director cannot plan for every location on a tour but everyone knows that the edge of the playing area is problematic with regards to sightlines in almost every space. However this is a minor quibble and did not detract from the evening as a whole.

I guess I was aching for something as life-affirmingly wonderful as Noises Off and this is a much slighter piece. It in enjoyable – but feels much less satisfying as a theatrical experience. Some great performances and a solid production cannot hide the fact that, for me, the writing only occasionally reaches the heights of Frayn at his best.


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