Those two great pillars of post-war British theatre, the play-within-a-play and the bawdy sex comedy, are married perfectly in Michael Frayn's classic modern farce, Noises Off.
Rich with theatrical stereotypes and double-entendres, the idea for Noises Off was supposedly formulated when Frayn was watching one of his own plays in 1970. Observing that the play was funnier from the wings than from the floor, Frayn hinted at the nudge-nudge wink-wink farce to come when he said: "It was funnier from behind than in front and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind." Oo-er.
The result was the expertly conceived and frequently updated Noises Off, the tale of a theatre company taking their terrible sex comedy 'Nothing On' through its stage debut and early performances. If 'Nothing On' is cheeky seventies pants-down pantomime nonsense, Noises Off is its irresistible, hilarious alter ego, itself rich in slapstick and farce and a hit with audiences everywhere.
Seemingly a very British affair, Noises Off also proved a hit on Broadway where it transferred in 1983 after premiering in London a year earlier. The Broadway run extended to over 500 performances and earned the production a Tony award for Best Play. Another Tony (for Katie Finneran as Best Featured Actress) followed the 2001 Broadway revival.
Noises Off was also made into a film in 1992, featuring Sir Michael Caine and directed by Peter Bogdanovich. It did not translate well to the screen and the movie proved to be more of a Nothing On than a Noises Off, and flopped biblically.
The love for the stage version has never waned however and Lindsay Posner directs a new production of Michael Frayn's classic backstage comedy, which opens at the West End's beloved Old Vic later this year.
The new production of Noises Off is at the Old Vic from Saturday 3rd December, now booking to 25th February 2012.
We have tickets available now for all dates, priced from £27.50 (£22.50 for previews - until Monday 12th December), rising to £49.50 for the best stalls (previews £44.50).