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Review | Noises Off | Chester Storyhouse | 06/02/2024

Debuting some 42 years ago with the incomparable Dame Patricia Routledge, Noises Off has been delighting audiences ever since. This Olivier Award winning comedy is essentially a play-within-a-play, with the characters rehearsing and performing the fictional play ‘Nothing On.’

When we first meet Mrs Clackett (Liza Goddard), we are almost confused by what comes across as a rather dodgy accent. Any potential fears from the audience are quickly laid to rest when it transpires that Mrs Clackett is a fictional character played by Dotty Otley in ‘Nothing On.’ The play-within-a-play narrative could have been difficult to pick up on, but this was luckily not the case when Lloyd Dallas (Simon Shepherd) stopped Mrs Clackett mid-scene to give direction. Much to the audiences amusement, he can’t direct her enough, with her forgetting different props on each additional run through.

The first act focuses entirely on the fraught last minute rehearsals. Whilst this is enjoyable to watch with its gentle British humour, it serves mainly to set the scene for what is to come. What works well is how we quickly get to know each of the characters in both their on and off stage roles, without confusion.

It is in the second act where the show really finds its stride. We find ourselves at a matinee performance a month later. As half expected, it is even more chaotic than the rehearsals themselves. This time we see the backstage antics with performers missing their queues and some even threatening not to go on stage at all! When the humour works it really works, with belly laughs echoing around the auditorium.

Having seen both the rehearsals and backstage perspectives, we are treated to seeing how the show played out on stage in the final act! As ‘Nothing On’ approaches the end of its run, the show should be tighter than ever. But where’s the fun in that? With relations between the cast at breaking point, and the set falling apart, it is truly chaos. From faulty curtains to slippery Sardines, the chaos doesn’t stop!

Although it admittedly takes a while to find its feet, when it does its a rip-roaring delight! This show knows exactly what its audience wants and delivers it them on a plate… of Sardines! Fans of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ will love this farcical comedy.

Noises Off is on at Chester Storyhouse until Saturday 10 February 2024.

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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