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Noises Off


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A: Michael Frayn Pf: 1982, London Pb: 1982 G: Farce in 3 acts S: Stage set of an English country home in three different theatres, c.1980 C: 7m, 3f‘Mrs Clackett’, ‘a housekeeper of character’, answers a telephone enquiry about the house. She breaks off: she is a famous but ageing actress Dotty Otley, rehearsing a play Nothing On that opens the following day under the direction of Lloyd Dallas. Estate agent ‘Roger’ enters with the attractive young ‘Vicki’ for a quick seduction and is surprised to find ‘Mrs Clackett’ at home. ‘Philip’ and ‘Flavia Brent’, the owners, arrive back home unexpectedly, and there is some delay to the rehearsal while doors are fixed, and an elderly alcoholic in the cast Selsdon Mowbray goes missing. Farcical complications in Nothing On ensue: ‘Philip’ loses his trousers, and a ‘Burglar’, played by Selsdon, turns out to be ‘Vicki's’ father. Tempers get frayed as the rehearsal continues into the early hours of the morning, especially as Lloyd is having an affair with both Brooke (‘Vicki’) and Poppy, the long-suffering Assistant Stage Manager. A month later, the play is on tour, seen now from backstage. Two of the actors are having a jealous row, and Lloyd arrives from London to calm Brooke, who is suffering from ‘nervous exhaustion’. As the play is performed, a desperate mimed farce is played out by the actors backstage, culminating in Poppy's announcement that she is pregnant with Lloyd's child. At the final venue, the backstage dramas have spilt over into the play itself, with ‘Mrs Clackett’ and ‘Flavia’ continuing a row onstage. The performance develops into surreal chaos, ending with the wedding of Lloyd and Poppy.

A: Michael Frayn Pf: 1982, London Pb: 1982 G: Farce in 3 acts S: Stage set of an English country home in three different theatres, c.1980 C: 7m, 3f

This may well be the cleverest farce of the 20th century, written to the well-tried formula of misunderstandings, characters who narrowly avoid meeting, and disappearing props. A new level is added by the tensions that develop between the actors, so that theatre and real life become hilariously but disturbingly entangled.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Michael Frayn (b. 1933)


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