Theatre review: Noises Off, Edinburgh

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WORRY not if you don’t catch every gag or get side-tracked by the girl in her underwear, just focus on the fact that it’s all about the sardines and the doors. The sardines and the doors.

King’s Theatre * * *

Like Arrested Development, Noises Off is worth several viewings to really appreciate the detailed layering of recurring comic intricacy that is built up as the story evolves.

Although, Michael Frayn’s classic 1982 play isn’t so much a comedy as a cautionary tale for directors.

A dense, absurd, perfectly timed foray into the inner workings of an on-tour theatre troupe, the story follows the misfortunes of the ensemble from their Weston-Super-Mare dress rehearsal to chaotic final performance in Stockton-On-Tees.

At the helm is director Lloyd Dallas, a stoic Neil Pearson, who is solid enough for the ensemble to bounce their neuroses off yet flawed enough to enter into their ever escalating insanity.

Balancing his patriarchal style with motherly concern and no shortage of womanly stirring is Belinda Blair, played by Sasha Waddell with a surprisingly large dose of Miranda Richardson’s Elisabeth the First thrown in for good measure. While the pair are certainly the glue holding the show together, the cast do a fine job of maintaining the production’s comic momentum, Maureen Beattie’s forgetful Dottie setting the tone and tempo for the rest of the production admirably.

Interestingly, Frayn favours the personal interactions of the two older women in the story over the younger pair. While a refreshing change from the theatrical norm, the narrative’s reliance on indulging in stereotypes blunts the comic impact of some of the big payoffs, particularly as the curtain drops half way through the second act.

Adored by the audience, the production elicited a continuous stream of belly laughs throughout the night, director Lindsay Posner really capturing the slapstick and humour within each situation.

The price for such strong emphasis on the comic, however, came at the expense of emotional rapport between characters; the audience are told about the cast’s intimate dynamics by Belinda Blair yet the chemistry to back up her words is not in evidence. But then, it is really just about the sardines and the doors.

• Run ends tomorrow