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Noises Off

King’s Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
It must be glorious for unsuspecting audiences to stumble on Michael Frayn’s extended actor’s nightmare for the first time. Imagine it, being dragged along to what looks like some workaday country house farce brim-full of down-the-ages TV friendly faces, theatrical old lags, bimbos, himbos and ditzy bit-part ingénues desperate for a break. Once there you have to plough through some pseudy programme notes while stuck next to sweet-wrapper rustling suburbanites who used to have a crush on the leading lady. Or maybe that’s just my experience of the sort of rubbish which Frayn’s brilliantly conceived study of back-stage theatrical manners so magnificently mimics, and which is still so depressingly flogged to death on the provincial circuit.

With Colin Baker and a wonderful Maggie Steed in the frame as a couple of old luvs, David Gilmore’s production takes Frayn’s triple bluffing Russian doll of a play and goes hell for leather with it. Doors slam, trousers are dropped and sardines are slipped on in an astonishing if at times not quite manic enough merry-go-round. To be fair, if it’s exhausting for the audience to keep up, goodness only knows what it’s like onstage, especially when a show like this is upstaged by a piece of unscripted flying bannister which prematurely dislodges itself.

While all the archetypes remain worryingly familiar, the worst thing that can be said about Noises Off today is that it’s starting to look dangerously close to a period piece. With this in mind, it’s probably about time Frayn’s work was similarly deconstructed, knocked about a bit and generally dragged into the twenty-first century. Then again, it probably wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

The Herald, September 24th 2008

ends

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