Michael Frayn’s iconic meta-farce recently transferred to the Garrick theatre in the west end following a sell-out run at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre. The play follows a touring theatre company who attempt to prepare and perform a farce by the name of ‘Nothing on’. Its characters try to make use of a house which they all believe to be empty. A housekeeper, an estate agent and his lover, the owners, and a burglar are among some of the people who happen to pass through the walls of the house, leading to a farcical climax when they all bump into one another.

At the start of the play, the audience witness the disastrous technical rehearsal whilst the frustrated director watches with horror, and following this, the company perform a calamitous matinee which the audience watch from a backstage point of view, depicting the unpredictable nature of theatre and performing live. ‘Noises off’ is indeed the original ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’. During the now famous second act, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, much to the detriment of the characters, but to the hilarity of the audience. 

The actors perform like clockwork, placing the props in exactly the right place and handing them to and fro in a perfectly choreographed sequence, whilst simultaneously exiting and entering the stage through numerous doors among the set, allowing the characters to perfectly not bump into each other. The comedy unfolds in the second act as the actors’ personal lives and relationships with one another threatens the performance of the production whilst they fight backstage. This way, Frayn is mocking actors who regularly get involved in on-tour flings, whilst also acknowledging their perseverance for performing a show when everything else in their life is falling apart.

It is safe to say that if you want a guaranteed good laugh, this is definitely a play to go and immerse yourself into. Jeremy Herrin’s directing and the perfect performance from the cast will leave you gasping for more air as you laugh.

‘Noises Off’ is running at the Garrick Theatre until Saturday 4 January 2020.

by Tara Bradbury