Delicate hell foil perfect for winter blues

Felicity Kendal, Alexander Hanson and Tracy-Ann Oberman in Noises Off at the Phoenix Theater - Nobby Clark

Felicity Kendal, Alexander Hanson and Tracy-Ann Oberman in Noises Off at the Phoenix Theater – Nobby Clark

Thank God for Michael Frayn and Noises Off, his restorative foolish game that helps fight the winter blues with its Saharan-powered warmth and fights the fate and gloom of our age with a kind of inverted logic: yes, we are in a mess, but at least we lead the world in organized theatrical chaos.

It’s been 40 years since Frayn’s meta-farce hit the West End, where a sex comedy went wrong three times in rehearsal, backstage and performance. There, it took the five years that defined the decade, connecting audiences with joyous admiration at the making.

The laugh meter hasn’t been pushed to the breaking point these days – we’re more restrained and it’s less important to mock such an ancient genre. But the long-time writer (90 this fall) must have been delighted with chuckles, laughs, and belly laughs—indulgent affection and nostalgia only partially fuels this—on the London opening night of Lindsay Posner’s anniversary revival.

At the center of the mayhem dropping pants and slamming doors is national treasure Felicity Kendal, who looks 76 and 20 years younger than the J row. She proves adorable in the song as the pale and jealous TV actress Dotty, who lives up to her name with her every fluffy line and clumsy move, constantly misplacing the “sardine plate” that’s an integral part of the plot of the sex comedy Nothing On. she and her ignorant doctor friends bring them to the states.

La Kendal, as Dotty, gains particular admiration in this way, as she appears distracted, focused, and staring at the same time, and as Miss Clackett, the game’s housekeeper, she navigates perfectly with her rebellious accent. Is this a superior revival than seen in 2019, in a sense – spurred by the pandemic? – top stage actors who enjoy the disturbing weirdness of their profession. Alexander Hanson captures the arrogant, compelling candor of the director bouncing out of bed, Jonathan Coy is an old-timey who craves character motivations where none exist, and Tracy-Ann Oberman (sadly leaving the cast soon) is a lovable – no luvvyish – conspiratorial intrigue at every weary shrug. mood.

The behind-the-scenes antics of Act II, involving phony imitation and frantic timing, are quite troublesome. But all is well on its way to a frenzied climax where Joseph Millson’s hilarious, show-stealing and landscape-shattering lead actor, Garry, tumbles down the stairs. In free fall from all directions; nothing makes sense, still doomed to continue like a pro. Like a demonic episode of Black Mirror, it has a curiously hellish quality. A tonic for choking.

until March 11;

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