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Noises Off - Theatre Royal Haymarket Review

Reviewed by Amelia Bascombe
Disclaimer: ticket was gifted in return for an honest review

Noises Off is a 1982 play by the English playwright Michael Frayn. The idea was conceived in 1970 and premiered at the Lyric Theatre on the West End in 1982. It ran on Broadway in late 1983 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, earning Tony nominations and a Drama Desk win.

The company of Noises Off. Photo by Nobby Clark

After a glorious run in the West End earlier this year, an all-star cast returns to London with some familiar faces. Felicity Kendal, Jonathan Coy and Alexander Hanson are joined by Gavin & Stacey’s Mathew Horne, star of Eastenders and The Tower, Tamzin Outhwaite and star of The Vicar of Dibley and Four Weddings and a Funeral, James Fleet. Director Lindsay Posner staged a successful Old Vic production of this play in 2011 and tours around the UK, and therefore is able to drive the script to reach its fullest potential.

The show is essentially a play within a play and follows the touring company of ‘Nothing On’ as they prepare for opening nights and different venues. Act one is made up of the final dress rehearsals and give the context and structure of the play that is used as a base for a chaotic act two. Although the play is over 40 years old, the concept still holds up today and could be seen as an influence for shows like ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’. The style of humour definitely suits an older demographic and the comedy style in act two is unmatched by the opening half.

Standout performances came from Tamzin Outhwaite, Mathew Horne and Jonathan Coy. Horne leads the cast brilliantly his comedic timing never gets lost. He gets perhaps the standout moment of the whole show when Dotty ties his shoelaces together. His physical comedy is sublime and watching him jump up the stairs and then subsequently fall back down had me in stitches. Outhwaite is over the top as Belinda and really soaks up all her grand comedy moments. Her character choices juxtapose those of Jonathan Coy who plays Freddie quite understated and modest. This then made his extensive reactions (i.e. his nosebleeds) even funnier.

My only issue would come from the character of Lloyd. He is the director of the play, Nothing On, and upon first impressions, he is angsty and aggravated by the rehearsals which is understandable. He stands in the audience for much for act one, which lends to this authentic feel that they’re going for. It becomes apparent as the play goes on however, that he is an incredibly misogynistic man, and this becomes cringeworthy at times.

Sasha Frost, Felicity Kendal, Alexander Hanson and Tamzin Outhwaite. Photo by Nobby Clark

Notable performances from the rest of the cast, who each had their own style and moments to shine. The cast are such a collective ensemble and rely on each other to create a completely authentic piece of theatre. The trust that they must have in each other, especially during the first part of the second act, is compelling and makes for some great performances. The second act is more cohesive than the first, and the physical comedy is unlike anything I’ve seen before. I wasn’t sure where we were going to go with this script but the unexpected twist of being backstage for one of their performances was so cleverly written and executed by all involved. The ending brought the whole production together and rounded it off nicely.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket is a perfect venue for this show; emulating the grandeur of the play itself. The stage direction is meticulous, and I can only imagine how much rehearsal has gone into making it flow as well as it did. The creatives have done a marvellous job with the choreography and set, to ensure the fabulous farce still lands 40 years on. 

Noises Off is booking at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 16th of December. Tickets are available from

Photo by Nobby Clark

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