The amazing thing about Michael Frayn’s pastiche of the British bedroom farce – Noises Off – is that it was first staged 40 years ago.
Even though the genre of such Whitehall farces hardly exists (remember the long running No Sex Please We’re British) this one is still regularly performed.
It has a clever structure of the First Act being the dress rehearsal of the farce Nothing On before its opening at Weston Super Mare, the Second Act the backstage shenanigans and the Third Act returns to the front of house play.
It contains many of the elements of farce: the dotty maid (Dotty/Felicity Kendal), the couple meeting for a tryst in unfamiliar place Brooke – Sasha Frost – with Gary (Joseph Millson), the bumbler (Frederick Fellowes/Jonathan Coy). it is in fact a play within a play (Nothing On) and the pastiche continues into the rather pretentious programme notes on Nothing On.
Jonathan Coy – who many might recall as the clerk in Rumpole – is an old friend and after the matinee I invited him for dinner at English’s.
He had to give an evening performance too and said that performing farce is hard work: the running down stairs, the opening and shutting of many doors and the falling over.
It might yet generate a Rust debate as I do not think too many sportsmen or women would like to give two performances the same day – footballers complain of two a week – and it’s a team game.
The cast, however, entered into the spirit of the romp with gusto and the audience responded.
Unlike Cabaret it was traditional theatre and the best compliment I can pay is I did not nod off in a theatre which has poor ventilation.
Praise too to the multi-talented Michael Frayn born in 1933: journalist, author and playwright.