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Noise Off at the Phoenix Theater review: Meticulously plotted and delightfully funny as ever

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Forty-one years later, Michael Frain’s irreverent farce-within-a-farce still guarantees to make audiences breathless with laughter, even though it has long surpassed the sex comedy it made in 1982. , and always feels fresh: Last night, the jokes about tax evasion went off particularly well.

Lindsay Posner’s revival features exactly the same starry allsorts – Felicity Kendall, Matthew Kelly, Alexander Hansen – who would have scoffed at leaving trousers in the street in the sixties or seventies. It’s slow and oddly silent in the first act, when a troupe of vain and needy thieves stumble through a rehearsal of a sinister farce called Nothing On.

But it gains momentum in the sublime second act, when we see the jealousies and vulnerabilities that wreak silent backstage havoc on the production; And third, when we watch the show, we are separated from the front. The whole thing is infused with an affection for the actors and stage comedy and theater lore, including the goofy romances that happen on tour. It’s also quietly deep, exploring the existential frustration that comes when you realize that no one is in control.

But mostly Noise Off is just blissfully, brilliantly funny. As aging sitcom darling Dottie Oatley, Kendall is well-cast and downright hilarious, if a little OTT, in her irritating mannerisms and disapproving pouts, who’s staked her savings on the drama. Joseph Milson bears the heroic brunt of the physical comedy as her toyboy boyfriend and co-star Gary Lejeune, hopping up and down stairs and banging together doors (that old farce standard) with his shoelaces.

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Joseph Milson, Felicity Kendall and Matthew Kelly

, © Photo by Nobby Clarke

Alexander Hanson is vulnerable as the arrogant director Lloyd Dallas, who is involved with both the show’s underwear-clad simpleton Brooke (Sasha Frost) and the young, female stage manager, Poppy (Pepper Lanczew). While the show uses tropes of sexist bedroom farce, I think Fran is very clear on the way Dallas exploits her power.

Tracy-Ann Oberman is a cheery performer as Belinda, the cast’s wonderfully charming repository of gossip and sympathy (Katherine Kingsley takes the part from February 13), while Selsdon Mowbray is Matthew Kelly’s selectively deaf, drunken old ham. The non-sequiturers of K add a real. Dimensions.

I was taken to the original run of Noises Off by my parents as a teenager, found it intoxicatingly hilarious, and have seen every major London revival since. Every time I bump into different anecdotes. Brooke’s determination to get her lines in order no matter what happens — unless she loses a contact lens, in which case everything grinds to a halt — is always amazing.

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In this show, I enjoy the desperate need of hapless Frederick (Jonathan Coy) to find his inspiration. and the way the intricate props (a fire axe, a whiskey bottle and several bouquets of flowers) are mirrored in the second act’s backstage dumshow with Nothing On (a telephone, an airline holdall, several plates of sardines).

But mostly I was again amazed by the way a new ensemble mastered a fiendishly complex piece of stagecraft, filled with verbal and visual gags that develop and pay off countless times. Minor niggles aside, Fran’s comic classic seems bulletproof. Cap and trousers, beside him.

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Phoenix Theatre, through March 11; www.atgtickets.com

(tagstotranslate) Michael Frain

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