Review: Noises Off

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Fun, chaotic, high-energy- the opening night of Phoenix Theatre’s Noises Off was a fabulous evening of comedy theatre. The 3-hour production takes the audience through a behind-the-scenes and audience perspective of ‘Nothing On’, a play within a play. 

The show opens with Lloyd, the worn-down and womanising director (played by Ben Lewis) getting into position on the audience stairs, with Dotty, in character as Mrs Clackett (played by Maddie Clark) coming on stage during the production’s dress rehearsal. The first act continues to introduce us to members of the cast and prod team of ‘Nothing On’ (Jo Price, Alex Edwards, Flo Lunnon, Olly Stanton, Clara Dammann, Henry Jones, and Emilia Lewis), with sexual tensions and friendly frustrations being revealed to the audience as the clock ticks closer to opening night. Act two has the audience switch to seating on the other side of the set, where we got to see the events of the same production but backstage, being put on a month later, and with things being even messier than before. To give you a taste of the various entanglements, there is a jealous rage backstage leading to members of the cast being chased with an axe, a bouquet mishap followed with a lot of tears, and sardines being thrown around. Act three brings the audience back to the other side of the set, back to the perspective of audience members, where we see the production finally descend into total chaos.

You could certainly argue that the star of this production is the set itself. The elaborate scenery consisted of eight doors and a window — which spent most the evening being continually smashed through. It would have been bold and ambitious to even suggest building a set like the one we saw in Mark Hillary last night, so to have pulled it off so perfectly is a real achievement. Huge credit must go to the set designers, Rosie Haffenden, and for executing their audacious creative vision.

The cast were all outstanding performers, with no weak link in the weird and wonderful characters being brought to stage through ’s inspired direction!

However, it would be remiss not to give special mentions to Clark’s hilarious portrayal of Dotty/Clackett, which carries a real stage presence throughout and whose switch between performer and castmate is particularly effective. Another mention should be to Lewis’ portrayal of Lloyd, as this is aptly comedic but also mildly uncomfortable when appropriate, for example when teasing Damman’s character, Poppy.

An honourable mention should be given to the Production Team, headed by Production Manager and Stage Manager Rachel Wilkinson. The show seemed to go off flawlessly, though any mishaps would have fitted right into the nature of the play. The Production Team team even got to flex their acting muscles, as during Act 2 they conducted their tech activities onstage as part of the backstage act of the show. They did this down to a T, and some cheeky dancing and comedic reactions could also be spotted, adding a finishing touch to the performance. 

There were a few downsides to be noted: before the show starts, the cast (in character) would interact with the audience coming in and already sat down. While the acting was phenomenal, some of the characters themselves are quite rude and blunt which led to some hit-and-miss interactions, although this can be entirely expected of improvised comedy. Another was the panto-esque physical comedy that, though keeping the audience engaged throughout, became a little tiresome and twee by the third act, although again this may have been completely intended as it is a 1920s-style farce, a lot unlike most DST comedy shows. 

Overall, though, these negatives are dwarfed by the great energy and hilarious acting choices made by the cast throughout the entire show. If you’re looking for an evening of chaotic comedy, Noises Off is the perfect example of the diversity of acting and production abilities.

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