Noises Off

Aug 18 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Not just technically funny

St Ninian’s Hall (Venue 230): Mon 10 – Sat 22 Aug 2015

Impressive on many levels, Edinburgh Theatre Arts’ production of Noises Off produces more than its fair share of laughs.

The technical challenges involved in Michael Frayn’s celebrated comedy, where tensions backstage in a touring theatre company’s low-rent farce affect the onstage performance, are not to be underestimated. For example, the requirement to have a full-size set that can be turned round between acts to show the behind-the-scenes shenanigans makes it more than challenging.

Noises Off. Photo John McLinden

Noises Off. Photo John McLinden

This was admirably discharged here, with many of the audience forgoing their interval drink to observe the stage crew’s work. Finlay Black’s set is well up to the job, especially considering things have to go deliberately wrong with it.

That backstage second act is the weak link in an otherwise excellent production. The virtually silent clowning needs to be done with split-second timing and perfection down to the millimetre. This does not quite happen here, despite valiant efforts.

It remains funny, however, which is even more true for the third act. Here, the play-within-a-play collapses entirely, reaching a level of hysteria that is extremely pleasing. Director Colin McPherson has done a tremendous job of organisation and the entire cast know exactly what they are doing.

David McCallum, as his onstage counterpart sleazy director Lloyd Dallas, maintains a detached cynicism that is a useful counterpoint to the craziness.

Mags McPherson is very fine indeed as the disappointed ex-TV star Dotty Otley, with excellent timing and great command of comedy.

intelligent and considered

Tim Biglowe as Garry turns in an intelligent and considered performance, and is particularly strong as things begin to unravel. The same can be said of Edith Peers as Belinda and Danny Farrimond as Frederick.

Kirsty Doull’s short-sighted, scarily unaware Brooke, is another well-judged characterisation. Leanne McKeag’s assistant stage manager Poppy is perhaps not as ingenuous and innocent as the character demands, but is believable nonetheless. Derek Marshall, as Tim the stage manager, has nailed a bewildered, slightly gormless look, that enables him to get big laughs from small gestures.

John McLinden’s washed-up, alcoholic Selsdon treads the fine line between humour and pathos with some elegance.

The reason Noises Off has wide appeal to people who could not care less about the nuts and bolts of theatre production is because it deals with very human fears about how complete chaos is always threatening to overwhelm the most carefully created plans, and does so with great humour. So much of its effect depends on things going wrong in the most controlled way, which is extremely difficult to achieve but must be made to look easy.

In the end, the most important thing is not the ambition of the production but the end result.  However praiseworthy the ambition might be, it would be nothing if it did not succeed.

The fact is that this production succeeds on many levels, and is extremely funny.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including 2 intervals
St Ninian’s Hall (Venue 230), 40 Comely Bank, EH4
Monday 10 – Sat 22 August 2015
Daily (not Sun 16 or Thurs 20) at 7.30 pm, matinees Sat 2.30 pm
Book tickets at:
Company website:

The cast of Noises Off. Photo: John McLinden

The cast of Noises Off. Photo: John McLinden


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