I can’t tell you how much it pleases me after going to one or two duds to then finally hit a show that’s really in its groove. I’ve read nothing but positives for Noises Off all the way back to before it transferred from the Old Vic, so I was hoping for a good time (and chose it specifically because I needed a pick-me-up). Still, I had a bit of dread heading into a show that was closing two months earlier than expected: would it have that leaden feeling so many shows under the hangman’s axe have?
Walking into a lobby full of perky people, there was nary a whiff of failure in the air (a bit surprising considering how many shows I’ve seen there that have gone into the turkey annals despite my enthusiasm for them). Folks were cheerful, upbeat, and generally acting like they were expecting to have a good evening – which made me wonder why the show was closing early. But given that the theater has three different balconies and that two of them were closed, I can see where the producers had decided it was time to call last round – a fact which in no way had dampened the enthusiasm of a Monday night crowd. In the auditorium, people were chattering in an animated fashion, explaining what to look forward to and expressing enthusiasm for the evening ahead. Clutching my dreadfully expensive ticket (£35 – ouch!), I did my “man in seat prayer” and hoped they were right.
What I knew going in advance was this was a farce about actors in a farce, and that some scenes are set backstage, while others are set on stage (I had heard back, back, front, but it was actually front, back, front). I didn’t realize that one of the scenes is actually a final rehearsal, which meant that the three scenes were all quite differently textured and paced (though the first act was a bit long). I also didn’t realize that the comedy of people performing a farce was going to be part of the hilarity of this play. Yeah, sure, doors and boobies hah ha; but when you turn it into the wrong doors backstage, insanely jealous actors and the wrong girl’s boobies (panties, actually), it just all becomes much more hilarious. You’ll probably not be laughing about sardines by act three, and if you’re me you’ll find the bit with the cactus a little hard to support mentally, but the scene where a man is hopping upstairs in a race to make his cue because his shoelaces are tied together just had me busting out laughing.
And, mostly, after the first act act was over, the whole show was a bucket of fun. The energy onstage never dropped; the feeling of commitment to the script was 100%; and the audience was utterly ready for every moment. Was this a show about to close? From row G, I wasn’t seeing it. I was only feeling sorry because I knew how close to the end it all was; like about a third of the people there, I would absolutely go see this again. You’ve got a few days still and there are good seats going cheap (especially if you get them in the gods as you’re pretty much assured an upgrade unless you pick Friday or Saturday night); try to catch it while you can.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, June 25th, 2012. The last show will be Saturday, July 30th, 2012.)