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British Theatre At Its Best - Noises Off

4 April 2012 Tom Butler

London Calling's Tom Butler tells us about the fantastic Noises Off and why British Theatre is alive and thriving.

There’s been something very refreshing about the West End in recent months, that amidst American imports such as Shrek, The Lion King and Legally Blonde there are clear signs that traditional English theatre still has its place in the market.
 
First there was the tremendous success of the National Theatre’s transfer of One Man Two Guv’nors, with James Corden now wowing audiences on Broadway. This was shortly followed by the Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers, with a stellar cast led by Peter Capaldi, having delighted audiences since the New Year.
 
And the third member of this fantastic triumvirate is Michael Frayn’s Noises Off. Following on from a run at The Old Vic, this production has now transferred to the Novello Theatre until the end of June. The play celebrated its 30th anniversary in February this year, and it seems fitting the landmark be honoured with a West End run.
 
Following on from the recent announcement by Old Vic Artistic Director Kevin Spacey that, with the support of Price Waterhouse Coopers they will be providing 100 tickets available for every performance to under 25’s for just £12, The Old Vic seems to be riding on the crest at the moment following the announcement of two Olivier Award nominations for Noise Off. One for ‘Best Revival’ and one for Celia Imrie for ‘Best Actress.’
 
Frank Rich, The New York Times theatre critic, famously called it “the funniest play written in my lifetime”, and the play itself formulated in Frayn’s mind over a decade before it’s current guise you see at the Novello today. According to the playwright it was born when watching another of his plays, Chinamen, in the wings, "It was funnier from behind than in front and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind.”
 
The production’s warmth and humour lends itself to both young and old, and the ’behind the scenes’ nature of the play gives audiences an alternative, farcical, fourth wall experience. And yet whilst the play comes across as highly improbable and down right ridiculous at times, those who work in the theatre say it actually bears a striking resemblance to real life activity.
 
The critical and audience reaction to the production at the Old Vic was fantastic, and when the production became the highest grossing ever at the theatre it made a transfer to the West End almost inevitable, and both playwright and artistic director couldn’t be more pleased or effusive in their support.
 
Firstly Michael Frayn saying “I think congratulations are in order to everyone in our terrific cast, and to Lindsay Posner, who directed them. I hope they’ll be very happy in their new home.”
 
To Kevin Spacey stating, "I couldn't be more thrilled with the reaction of audiences to this production of Noises Off. It’s wonderful for The Old Vic to be transferring this production into the West End, giving many more people the chance to see Michael Frayn's brilliant play, and the fantastic company of actors that have brought it to life. It has always been our ambition to see our productions travel to other theatres so this is great news for The Old Vic."
 
For all those involved in the transfer, the next few months promise to be a fantastic experience, and if the run at the Old Vic is anything to go by, an experience packed with full houses and standing ovations. So here’s to Noises Off and the current renaissance for traditional English theatre, and to The Old Vic for showcasing the best of British, long may it continue.


Noises Off is on at Novello Theatre. Book tickets until 30 June 2012.

 

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