Frayn’s farce has Thacker leaving them laughing

Barbara Drennan as Belinda Blair in Noises Off at Bolton Octagon. Picture: Ian Tilton
Barbara Drennan as Belinda Blair in Noises Off at Bolton Octagon. Picture: Ian Tilton
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Noises Off, Octagon, Bolton

Leave ‘em laughing is a showbiz motto that has served the trade well down the years.

Director David Thacker does just that, signing off his six-year tenure here with the play that never really needs any excuse to be revived anyway.

Michael Frayn’s Noises Off is the one where everything that can go wrong does - three times over - and to maximum comic effect.

So it’s the perfect vehicle for Thacker to bow out with, reminding us just how much went right during his time at the Octagon.

Whether you have enjoyed Frayn’s deconstructed farce before, or not, you are never likely to see it quite so close and personal as here.

The Octagon reverts to end stage format and gives the audience a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a mad world of backstage comedy where the show must go on, despite its cast and director being in open revolt with eachother.

It also slightly inhibits the performance space for a second act which is largely performed as silent slapstick. Just once or twice it might all have benefitted from one or two moments of slow-motion silliness.

In such intimate performance it will be a long time before anyone forgets Barbara Drennan’s mad-eyed determination, as Belinda Blair, to salvage something from a final performance; Paula Jennings’ entirely vacant look as the play’s eye candy; James Dutton’s empty-headed heroics as the production’s repeated fall guy; and – above all – Rob Edwards (perhaps channelling Thacker himself?) as the desperate director of proceedings. Noises Off runs until July 4.

David Upton