Liza Goddard as Dotty attempts to . . . mediate in the minor disagreement between Dan Fredenburgh’s Garry and Simon Coates' Frederick. Picture: Pamela Raith   

Noises Off

Malvern Theatres


Michael Frayn’s Noises Off UK Tour extends into 2024, opening at Malvern Theatres with a crash bang wallop from the West End, so sit back in the dark with a packet of Gummy Bears and enjoy the farce, after a toilet break of course.

It’s final rehearsals in Weston-Super-Mare for Nothing On, as a play within a play undresses itself, dropping trousers, breaking out of paper bags with sex maniacs running riot. “Once you get it in your nostrils, you never forget it.”

What is a farce without crude characterization, trousers round your ankles and a plate of sardines? British award-winning playwright and novelist Michael Frayn is hailed as the master of farce comedy and it’s easy to see why it’s celebrating the 40th anniversary, as the penmanship is exquisitely executed with warp speed nimbleness with instantaneous joy and humility.

The play premiered at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London in 1982, but is it dated for a more modern audience? This year’s farcical comedy is at Malvern Theatres from January 16 until January 20 and I was lucky to see Liza Goddard in action as housekeeper Dotty Otley, Dotty by name and dotty by nature.

Dotty becomes increasingly forgetful and confused wrapping herself up in the telephone cable and becoming more and more dishevelled as the antics behind the scenes force their way on to the stage. Luckily she can’t see far with her leg.

Director Lloyd Dallas, Simon Shepherd, has great stage presence and brings everything together despite his dalliances. Belinda Blair, Lucy Robinson, had me in hysterics with her incredible miming, flouncing around in her bright pink dress and keeping a check on burglar Selsdon Mowbray, Paul Bradley, who can just about hear what is going on.

The set designer Simon Higlett cleverly engineers a revolving set seamlessly transitioning from front of house to behind the scenes allowing Lindsay Posner to direct the magic with a little help from lighting designer Paul Pyant and sound designer Gregory Clarke. ‘It’s all quite simple really, doors and sardines. That’s what it’s all about, doors and sardines. Getting on, getting off. Getting the sardines on, getting the sardines off. That’s farce. That’s the theatre. That’s life.’

When one door opens another door closes. After the first Act with the disastrous final rehearsals, the second Act gathers momentum behind the scenes with Garry Lejeune’s, Dan Fredenburgh’s, increasing anger at betrayal, heartbreak, jealousy and has to perform a Wednesday matinee in Ashton-under-Lyne with shoe laces tied together, fighting with a cactus and taking a tumble, oh I don’t know…

The piece de resistance is the final third Act in Stockton-on-Tees ending in a frantic chaotic, slapstick medley of shenanigans which will leave you wanting to watch the whole thing all over again. 

Noises Off is definitely not dated, despite the microwave looking television and the box of paperwork. Brooke Ashton, Lisa Ambalavanar, can finally put some clothes on and see clearly and Tim Allgood, Daniel Rainford can have a well-deserved rest with his feet up and Frederick Fellowes, Simon Coates, can pull his trousers up and mop his bloody nose in peace.

‘When all around is strife and uncertainty, there’s nothing like an old fashioned plate of, uh….Curtain!’

A must see this week at Malvern Theatres until Saturday January 20th. Tickets available from the box office on 01684 892277 or online here.

Emma Trimble


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