Noises Off at the Birmingham Rep – review

Noises Off Birmingham Rep review

What a well executed farce!

I was not quite sure what to expect with this show, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening – with proper belly laughs and snorting chuckles I was in stitches throughout. Then after the show I turned to my mom who sat beside me laughing along and we discussed how incredibly difficult it must have been to execute the performance with such complex details and excellent comedic timing.

There were moments reminiscent of the chaos and bought to life by John Cleese in Fawlty Towers or by Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer, the kind of comedy which is so cleverly subtle it seems accidental and hilarious all at the same time. I’m honestly in awe of how challenging this concept would have been, not only to create but to explain to the cast in the first instance. In fact I imagine that dress rehearsals would have been very similar to the first act.

As the curtain lifted for the first time we met our first actress within the play as she picked up a telephone, spoke her lines and then needed to walk off set leaving a plate of sardines on the table but remembering to take the newspaper. As she fumbled over this, a directors voice boomed out from somewhere in the audience, asking her to repeat the lines again and to remember to put the phone down, and get the props right.

Noises Off Birmingham Rep review

Immediately the audience understood we were watching some sort of rehearsal within a play. Throughout the first act we met the cast and crew as they completed their Dress rehearsal (or technical run through) of their play “Nothing On” Mistakes were made, and corrected by the exasperated director and we began to see the personalities of the actors develop through their interactions with each other. Running in to the early hours of the morning before their first performance tempers were frayed and it was a pre curser of what was to come. With complex love affairs, and an actor with an alcohol problem this was a disaster waiting to happen.

This act in itself was very well put together, at first the entire play didn’t seem to make sense but as the director put it, it’s all about sardines, boxes and doors. It was vital to the play within the play that actors entered and exited the stage through the right doors with the right props at just the right time. We were reminded of this several times as they practised to make it perfect.

Noises Off Birmingham Rep review

The second act flipped the perspective. We joined our troupe of actors mid way through their tour and the stage we saw was set with a behind the scenes view of the play we had already seen rehearsed. So we (the audience) knew how it was meant to go, and we also began to see the drama unfold behind the scenes as the complicated personal lives of the cast and crew of “Nothing On” spilled out and affected the performance.

This act was extremely busy with the actors arguing behind the set as the performance was taking place. I had tears streaming down my face as the chaos unfolded and I didn’t know where to look at times because there was so much going on. There were doors slamming everywhere as a love affair was revealed, misunderstandings took place and a couple of the troupe tried to hold everything together as it was all falling apart.

Noises Off Birmingham Rep review

I have no idea how this was executed so well – the placement of props such as a whiskey bottle and cactus was so perfect throughout this skit and must have taken an age to perfect. There were so many different comedic devices packed in to this act, from the repetition of the first act intertwined with slapstick and comic timing – How the cast manage to pull this off live every evening I do not know – it’s exhausting to watch and try hold in the roars of laughter.

Noises Off Birmingham Rep review

Our evening was not over when this second act and it’s unfortunate performance drew to an end, the curtain fell but it was very apparent that there was a lot of rummaging around behind the scenes. I pulled myself together and took a glance around the auditorium, watching as the audience members turned to their friends beside them and wiped tears of laughter away, talking about the different things they had seen during that 40 minutes of madness.

After just five minutes, act three began. I’m not quite sure where our troupe of actors was geographically but it was apparent that we were again watching the same play from the audience perspective at a later stage of the tour and at this point, nothing was going to plan. Our poor housekeeper limped across the stage with heavy bandages on her knee and dropped her plate of sardines which had a knock on effect to the entire performance. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and it was just brilliant.

Noises Off Birmingham Rep review

Last Updated on 8 months by Lavania Oluban

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