Noises Off is a 1982 play by the English playwright Michael Frayn. The idea for it came in 1970, when Frayn was watching from the wings a performance of The Two of Us, a Farce that he had written for Lynn Redgrave. He said, "It was funnier from behind than in front and ithought that one day i must write a Farce from behind." The prototype, a short-lived one-act play called Exits, was written and performed in 1977. At the request of his associate, Michael Codron, Frayn expanded this into what would become Noises Off. It takes its title from the theatrical stage direction indicating sounds coming from offstage.

Characters of Noises Off

  • Lloyd Dallas: The director of a Play-within-the-Play, called Nothing On. Temperamental. Part of a love triangle involving Poppy and Brook.
  • Dotty Otley: A late-middle-aged actress. Forgetful. Has a romantic interest in Garry and provokes him by showing interest in Freddy.
  • Garry Lejeune: A stuttring actor, easily fired up. Has a romantic interest in Dotty and is driven by jealousy to attack Freddy repeatedly. His speech impediment dissapears onstage. Constantly stutters and ends sentences with "you know..."
  • Brooke Ashton: A young inexpirenced actress from London. She pays no attention to others, either in performance or backstage. She rarely takes directions and persists in role regardless of any interruption. She is always losing her contact lenses.
  • Frederick (Freddy) Fellowes: Has a serious fear of violence and blood. Gets nosebleeds easily. Lacks confidence and is rather dim-witted and pompous.
  • Belinda Blair: Cheerful and sensible, a reliable actress. Has a rather protective attiude towards Freddy.
  • Poppy Norton-Taylor: Assistant Stage Manager. Emotional and over-sensitive and envious of Brooke, whom she understudies. Part of the Lloyd-Poppy-Brooke love triangle.
  • Selsdon Mowbray: Elderly and with actorly mannerisms. If he is not in sight while rehearsing, the stage crew must find him before he finds the whisky.
  • Timothy allgood: An over-worked Stage Manager. Understudies Selsdon and Freddy.

Character of the Play-within-the-Play, Nothing On

  • Mrs. Clackett (Dotty): Housekeeper of the Brents' home in England. Hospitable, though slow.
  • Roger (Garry): Estate agent looking let Flavia's and Phillip's house.
  • Vicki (Brooke:) Works for the tax authorities and is trying to woo Roger.
  • Phillip Brent (Freddy): Lives out of the country with his wife Flavia to avoid paying taxes and is on a secret visit.
  • Flavia Brent (Belinda): Phillip Brent's wife. She is dependable, though not one for household duties.
  • Burglar (Selsdon): Old man in his seventies, breaking into the Brents' house.
  • Sheikh (Freddy): Interested in renting the house.


Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of a Play within a Play, a poor Farce called Nothing On. The three acts of Noises Off are each named "Act One" on the contents page of the script, thought they are labelled in the body of the script; and the programme for Noises Off will include, provided by the Author, a comprehensive programme for the Weston-super-Mare run of Nothing On, including spoof advertisements and acknowledgements to the providers of mysterious prop that do not actually appear (e.g. stethoscope, hospital trolley and straitjacket). Nothing is seen of the rest of Nothing On.

Nothing On is the type of play in which young girls run about in their underwear, old men drop their trousers and many doors continuelly band open and shut. It is set in "a delightful 16th-century posset mill", modernised by the current owners and available to let while they are abroad; the fictional playwright is appropriately named Robin Housemonger.

Act One is set at the Dress Rehearsal at the (fictional) Grand Theatre in Weston-super-Mare; the cast are hopelessly unready and baffled by entrances and exits, missed cues, missed lines and bothersome props, including several plates of sardines.

Act Two shows a Wednesday Matinée performance one month later, at the (again fictional) Theatre Royal in Ashton-under-Lyne. In this act, the play is seen from backstage, providing a few that emphasises the deteriorating relationships between the cast that lead to offstage shenanigans and onstage bedlam. The play falls into disorder before the curtain falls.

In Act Three, we see a performance near the end of the ten-week run, at the (still fictional) Municipal Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees, when personal friction has continued to increase. The actors remain determined at all costs to cover up the mounting series of mishaps, but it is not long before the plot has to be abandoned entirely and the more coherent characters are obliged to take a lead in ad-libbing somehow towards some sort of end.

Much of the Comedy emerges from the subtle variations in each version as character flaws play-off each other off-stage to undermine on-stage performance, with a great deal Slapstick. The contrast between players' on-stage and off-stage personalities is also a source of comic dissonance.

Production History

The pay premiered at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London in 1982, directed by Michael Blakemore and starring Patrica Routledge, Paul Eddington and Nicky Henson. It opened to universally ecstatic reviews and shortly after transferred to the Savoy Theatre in the West End, where it ran until 1987 with five successive casts. It won the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy.

On December 11, 1983, a production directed again by Blakemore and starring Dorothy Loudon, Victor Garber, Brian Murray, Deborah Rush, Douglas Seale and Amy Wright opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, on Broadway, where it ran for 555 perfomances.

Film adaptation

In 1992, the play was adapted for the screen by Marty Kaplan and Mel Brooks.


Wikipedia.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Noises Off.
The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
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