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Noises Off (Birmingham)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The genre of farce can be so overstated that the comedy becomes so far-fetched and over the top that a modern audience can struggle in finding its content more than ludicrous. In <i>Noises Off</i> , however, by placing the discourse in a theatrical setting Michael Frayn’s comedy makes the content ironic in that the actors are playing actors rehearsing and playing a play, within the play.

It sounds complicated, but by making the actors in the play ridiculous, as well as the play they are rehearsing equally as absurd the results are brilliantly funny.

Ian Talbot’s production very much evokes the classic slapstick comedies, especially those in the same backstage setting such as Victoria Wood's infamous Acorn Antiques.

Brigit Forsyth is also much of the Mrs Overall character in her portrayal of Dotty Otley; playing the house maid Mrs Clackett in the company’s production of Nothing On. What is both hilarious and engaging about her performance is how whilst Forsyth’s character Dotty is playing the competent Mrs Clackett Dotty is a completely hopeless actress, forgetting and inventing her lines as she stumbles through the production.

It would be impossible to class any member of the ensemble as a ‘supporting role’ as each company member brings their own quirks and characteristics to their individual part. This is partly thanks to Michael Frayn’s excellent execution of characterisation in the text, but also the stellar group of actors in this production which breathe comic life into Frayn’s text.

Following in the true conventions of farce, Paul Farnsworth’s designs employ the use of ever opening and shutting doors in the setting for the production in rehearsal, Nothing On. What is brilliant about the design is once we go behind the scenes in the second half of the narrative, whilst the doors are now used as entrances to the stage they also have the same farcical effect. Even though we are now introduced to the happenings of the cast involved in the production, and not the play they are rehearsing, their lives and happenings whilst back-stage prove to be just as farcical as the characters they are playing on-stage.

Whilst equally as funny, when we switch from backstage to the production once again the comedy becomes a little bit too much of what we have already seen. The narrative could easily end after the glimpse backstage with not much gain coming from the additional switch back to the production of Nothing On.

However, this is classical farce for a contemporary audience which is both wittily ironic and brilliantly staged.

- Ben Wooldridge


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