Noises Off, Mercury Theatre – 05/05/2015

Noises Off
Photo: Robert Day

Having spent the past couple of months stressing about my AS exams, I was pretty excited at the possibility of some light humorous relief in the form of Noises Off, the play about a play following the dysfunctional cast of Nothing On and their attempts to put on a successful tour. Prior to my evening of theatre I had been on a tour of Colchester’s libraries, trying to pick up at least some facts about Churchill’s international diplomacy during WWII and at which bar Mozart uses a diminished 7th chord in his piano sonata (bar 67… I think). It would be fair to say at this point I was mildly tired and perhaps not ready for the amount of humour I was about to be bombarded with.

From all the practise papers I’ve been taking over the last few weeks, I’ve learnt it’s often important to look at thinks objectively. So, looking at Noises Off in this light, it fares really rather well. Wikipedia describes it as a farce, ‘a comedy that aims to entertain the audience through situations that are highly exaggerated and extravagant’. This it succeeds in – there is a lot of falling over and overdramatic delivery of lines which had the audience in fits, and occasionally, made me giggle too. Wikipedia also informs me that ‘farces are often highly incomprehensible plot-wise’. This is also another great success of the play – I had literally no idea what was happening, which was at times enjoyable, but at others completely overwhelming for me and my tired old brain. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had my head not been full up with random figures (Fun facts: Italy had 2million unemployed by 1919. The Labour party has 190,000 members), but for my current mental state I wasn’t ready to handle quite so many innuendos, people falling over and predictable jokes.

The first act is relatively easy to follow, the idea of director Lloyd yelling at the actors to get them to cooperate is really clever and so funny. The set revolves for the second act to show the backstage antics of the Nothing On cast. This seemed really interesting when it first began, but by the end of this act I had unfortunately had enough of the same jokes over and over again. This backstage view of the performance ends in disaster again (what a surprise), and just when I thought the show was over… the fictional play (inside the play) begins again. Even explaining it is nigh on impossible! I felt like I’d effectively ended up watching the same thing three times, which although amusing and a definite intelligent idea for the play, was just not something I could fully get on board with. Judging by other audience members, however, I was in the overwhelming minority – it’s definitely very good at what it does, and if what you’re looking for is a good old fashioned comedy from a different stance then this is totally up your street.

The cast of the play, however, cannot be faulted. The intricacy of the plot takes a lot of keeping up with for the audience, let alone for the people actually trying to act it out! Louise Kempton is hilarious as Poppy and I loved all the small actions and movements that really added to the awkwardness of her character.

It would seem after all this then, that I’ve entirely missed the point of the play. Come on Ellie – it’s meant to be ridiculous and confusing! Well… Yes. Maybe, then, we can conclude that you shouldn’t try and watch a farce when your brain is full of revision. And perhaps also that I have found the first genre of play that I don’t like.



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