Felicity Kendall as Dotty, Alexander Hanson as Lloyd, and Tracy-Ann Oberman as Belinda
in Noises Off, London 2023
Photo by Nobby Clark
058 – Noises Off, by Michael Frayn
Michael Frayn’s iconic comedy Noises Off is a farce about putting on a farce, in which a touring theatre company stage a dated British sex farce entitled Nothing On. As the hapless actors struggle to remember their lines and hit their queues, Frayn gives us a glimpse backstage of the mechanics of theatre, and of the disintegrating relationships of the cast as they toil through their interminable regional tour. Noises Off is a work of theatrical genius. Its parody of second-rate theatre-making is delivered with extraordinary invention and immaculate timing, while it also highlights the humanity of its characters as they stumble through the chaos of the production and their lives.
The play premiered at the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith in 1982, before transferring to the Savoy Theatre, where it won the Evening Standard award for Best Comedy and ran for 5 years with five successive casts. It was produced on Broadway in 1983, where the famed New York theatre critic Frank Rich called it the funniest play written in his lifetime. To mark its 40th anniversary, the Theatre Royal Bath mounted a revival, that as we record this episode arrives on stage at the Phoenix theatre in London’s West End in an hilarious production directed by Lindsay Posner.
I’m absolutely delighted to be joined today by Lindsay Posner, who has the distinction of having directed Noises Off twice in his distinguished career. What could possibly go wrong?!
PS You may also enjoy our episode with Michael Frayn on his play Copenhagen.
Lindsay Posner has a remarkable list of theatrical credits as a director, both in the UK and internationally. He has directed Noises Off on two occasions: first at the Old Vic Theatre in 2011, and then most recently at Theatre Royal Bath in 2022, which as we recorded our episode arrived at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End. At the same time, his production of Edward Albee’s classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was running on the Ustinov stage at the Theatre Royal in Bath.
Lindsay was Associate Director at the Royal Court Theatre from 1987-1992.
We’ve included a list of Lindsay’s other credits on his Guest page: Lindsay Posner.
Lindsay recommended The Truth by Florian Zeller.
The Footnotes to our episode on Michael Frayn’s comic masterpiece Noises Off include extracts from the fictional programme to Nothing On, the play-within-the-play, and a reprisal of one of the best jokes in the play.
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Shakespeare’s devastating exploration of race, reputation and jealousy, The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice was a popular success when it was first performed during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but in the centuries since it has provoked a wide range of responses as successive generations have grappled with the racial identity of the eponymous character. As we record this episode a new production of Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London views the play’s treatment of race through a contemporary lens, setting the play within the London Metropolitan police force, a topical environment for racial inspection.
I am privileged to welcome as my guest someone especially qualified to help us navigate the tricky waters of Shakespeare’s play, Farah Karim-Cooper, Director of Education at Shakespeare’s Globe, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kings College London, and the author of The Great White Bard – Shakespeare, Race and the Future.
Ken Nwosu as Othello and Ralph Davies as Iago
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Photo by Johan Persson
Harold Pinter’s disturbing exploration of toxic masculinity and sexual maneuvering, The Homecoming premiered in 1965. The play’s portrait of misogyny, and even more disturbing, the apparent female complicity, was shocking at the time it was written. Nearly 60 years on the sexual politics is if anything even more difficult to watch. So what was Pinter’s purpose in presenting such a provocative piece, and how do we process it in the post Me-Too age?
I am joined by Matthew Dunster, the director of a scintillating new production of the play at the Young Vic in London, who can help us answer those questions about Pinter’s challenging classic.
Lisa Diveney as Ruth at the Young Vic – photo by Dean Chalkley.
Henrik Ibsen’s dark family drama Ghosts provoked outrage when it was published in 1881, its treatment of sexual disease, incest and euthanasia too much for the critics. More than 140 years later its portrait of repressed truths and social hypocrisy remains as powerful as ever.
Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, helps us review Ibsen’s unflinching drama.
Hattie Morahan as Helene Alving at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, London, December 2023. Photo by Marc Brenner.