Noises Off… (1992) – Peter Bogdanovich

Stage comedy is wonderfully adapted in this all-star adaptation of Michael Frayn’s gut-busting play. If you’ve never seen this film, have a look at this cast…

Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Denholm Elliott, Julie Hagerty, Marilu Henner, Mark Linn-Baker, Christopher Reeve, and Nicollette Sheridan, who spends most of the film in her undergarments.

With a cast like that, and a wickedly farcical, rapid-fire slapstick comedy of errors and sight gags, it’s impossible not to have a hood time with this film.

For the first third of the film, we’re in the audience with the show’s director, Lloyd Fellowes (Caine), as he walks his cast through the tech/dress rehearsal of an English sex farce stage play called Nothing On. It establishes relationships, romances, acting problems, motivations, cues, sardines, doors and keeping Selsdon (Elliott) from drinking.

It’s insanely funny, and watching these actors, you know it had to be a fantastic set; especially with two comedic legends like Burnett and Ritter, facial expressions, and physical comedy is taken too insane extremes.

And that’s the first third of the film, the tech-dress rehearsal!

NoisesOff3We move forward to an infamous matinee performance in Florida, where things have apparently been falling apart behind the scenes, romances have bloomed and fallen apart, new relationships have started (there’s ongoing gags with a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of scotch) and everyone seems to be out to get everyone else.

That alone is funny, but the fact that it all happens during the show’s performance is hilarious, add that to the fact that it’s told back stage where everything MUST be silent, is beyond brilliantly funny. Everything that was planted in the first half, which is done so you can know exactly what is supposed to happen on stage, falls apart taken to comedic extremes, capped with a revelation from one of the many female cast and crew members that Fellowes has slept with.

The dialogue in the first third is fast, funny, furious, and the second third is a brilliant exercise in comedic timing, acting, facial expressions and actors at the top of the game.

From there we move to Cleveland, where everything seems to have fallen apart completely.

NoisesOff2They all hate one another now, they’re all trying to ruin the others performance, the show is falling apart, props are coming apart, yet they all hold to that old adage, the show must go on! Lines are flubbed, improvisation takes the stage show completely off the rails, entrances and exits are missed, the set is falling apart and it ends up verging on comedic excellence.

As most of the cast end up onstage they simply sit and watch the train wreck that has become their show.

Watching these actors as the thing falls apart around them is about as funny as it gets, all of them have had great comedic bits in the past, and watching them work together is a true delight.

It does make me miss the days when I was in am-dram myself, the organized chaos of backstage while making sure that everything runs smoothly on stage. But then I think with all the things I have going on ritgh now, with my job, the blog, and our awesome (if I do say so myself) show on Smithee.TV, I’m not sure I would have time for stagecraft anymore.

Maybe soneday…

Have you seen this one or the original play?


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