meticulously planned and as delightfully funny as ever

Tracy-Ann Oberman, Alexander Hanson and Joseph Millson (Nobby Clark)

Tracy-Ann Oberman, Alexander Hanson and Joseph Millson (Nobby Clark)

Forty-one years later, Michael Frayn’s incomparable farce has long surpassed the sex comedies he set out to forge in 1982, but it’s sure to leave audiences breathless with laughter. , and it always feels fresh: last night, the jokes about tax evasion sounded particularly solid.

Lindsay Posner’s revival includes the kind of starry allsorts—Felicity Kendal, Matthew Kelly, Alexander Hanson—just the kind that might have gotten a pant-dropping farce on the road in the ’60s or ’70s. In the first act, it’s slow and interestingly quiet when a group of arrogant and needy thes stumble upon rehearsals for a scary comedy called Nothing On.

But the lofty picks up in the second act as we witness jealousies and weaknesses quietly ruin the production behind the scenes; and third, when we watched the show fall apart from the front. It’s all brimming with a cynical love for actors and stage comedy and theatrical knowledge, including mindless romances that happen while touring. At the same time, deep down in silence, exploring the existential helplessness that arises when you realize that no one is in control of you.

But mostly Noises Off is just blissful, brilliantly funny. Kendal is well cast and solidly funny as Dotty Otley, the aging sitcom sweetheart who puts her savings into the game, albeit a little OTT with her nervous demeanor and disapproving sullenness. As toy boy lover and co-star Gary Lejeune, he carries the heroic brunt of physical comedy by walking up and down stairs and slamming doors (that old comedy standard) with his shoelaces tied together.

Joseph Millson, Felicity Kendal and Matthew Kelly (Photo: ©Nobby Clark)

Joseph Millson, Felicity Kendal and Matthew Kelly (Photo: ©Nobby Clark)

Alexander Hanson falls short in his role as arrogant director Lloyd Dallas, who has an affair with both the show’s lingerie creator Brooke (Sasha Frost) and the young, female stage manager Poppy (Pepter Lunkuse). Even though the show uses sexist bedroom tropes, I think Frayn is pretty clear on how Dallas uses her power.

Tracy-Ann Oberman is a delight as Belinda, the cast’s repository of gossip and sympathy (Katherine Kingsley takes over the role from February 13), the offbeat characters of Selsdon Mowbray, Matthew Kelly’s selectively deaf, drunk old ham, have a surreal air train. dimension.

I was taken by my parents to the original run of Noises Off as a teenager, I found it intoxicatingly funny, and I’ve seen every major revival in London since. I get hit by individual strands every time. Brook’s determination to deliver her lines in order is always great no matter what – as long as she doesn’t lose her contact lens, in which case it all stops.

In this show, I enjoyed the unfortunate Frederick (Jonathan Coy) desperate need to find motivation. And the way the intricate props (a phone, an airline luggage, a few plates of sardines) in Nothing On are mirrored (by a fire ax, a whiskey bottle, and a few bouquets of flowers) in the second act’s stupid behind-the-scenes show.

But for the most part, I was once again stunned that a new troupe had mastered a devilishly complex performing art filled with verbal and visual jokes that evolved and paid off innumerable times. Little chuckles aside, Frayn’s comic book classic looks bulletproof. Hats and trousers are entrusted to him.

Phoenix Theatre, March 11;

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