Review: Noises Off


The Indy reviews a farce in Farkas.

Synopsis: it’s about a play.

Unabridged summary: love triangles ruin everything.

Extended details: sardines??

Noises Off is a farce made of first acts following the plight of a play-within-a-play called “Nothing On.” It begins with the dress rehearsal going spectacularly wrong at one in the morning on the day of the show’s first performance. Dotty, playing the housekeeper Mrs. Clackett, struggles to remember the stage directions of a plate of sardines while Garry’s character struggles to remember Mrs. Clackett’s name. Freddy, playing the tax-evading owner of the house, stops the rehearsal to question the motivations of his character’s actions—not his financial crimes, but his decision to carry a bag of groceries from one end of the room to the other. Director Lloyd, who is first seated amongst the audience as he watches his motley crew bungle their lines and miss their cues, grows increasingly frustrated as the night goes on.

Once the actors finish the dress rehearsal of the first act, the stage falls dark, and the second act immediately begins at a matinée performance one month later. Now that the audience has a sense of the cast’s madness, the shenanigans only escalate backstage, where there’s nowhere to hide them. This spirit of the comedy is really captured in the play’s impressive set, which is fully rotatable to include both the stage of “Nothing On” and the backstage area. While the catastrophe of the play-within-the-play has its own comedic merit, most of the hilarity comes from the noises off stage (hence its title).

The realistic struggle and strife of putting a show together is familiar to anyone who’s ever been part of the cast or crew of a production. Even for someone who’s never touched theatre production with a ten-foot pole, the train-wreckage that the production becomes is so hilariously out of line that familiarity with the details becomes unnecessary. Stage manager Tim and assistant stage manager Poppy accidentally keep overriding each other’s announcements over the sound system; one declares the curtain to go up in one minute, and the other immediately follows by giving the audience three minutes. Props are missing, and so are actors.

Meanwhile, Lloyd tries to orchestrate some flowers for young actress Brooke and ends up further entangled in his love triangle between Brooke and Poppy. Every time Brooke is upset, she has to lie on the floor and meditate for several minutes before she can act again. Dotty, who’s mad at her romantic interest and fellow actor Garry, almost refuses to talk to him on stage and then ties his shoelaces together halfway through the act. (He doesn’t untie them, and as a result goes down a flight of stairs in a very non-traditional and painful way.) The ridiculous retaliatory antics that the actors get up to makes for some great slapstick comedy, including a long scene in which several people fight over and wield an axe.

After a fifteen-minute intermission, the farce returns to a performance on the production’s last leg, when the actors are bruised, bloody, and almost unable to work with each other. Everyone’s given up on knowing where the sardines should be. Everyone in the fictional cast and crew end up on stage for one hilarious reason or another, and the play crescendos to a beautifully catastrophic ad-libbing by the few actors who still have it together. The closing line sums it up: “When all around is strife and uncertainty, there’s nothing like an old fashioned plate of… uh… curtain!”

(Spoiler: it’s sardines.)

Noises Off will be in Farkas Hall on Thursday, November 12th, Friday, November 13th, and Saturday, November 14th at 7:30 p.m. or Sunday, November 15th at 2:00 p.m. Thursday’s performance is free with an HUID.

Audrey Effenberger ‘19 ( has never eaten sardines.