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on January 23, 2001
It's such a shame that both the script and the movie are out of print. "Noises Off!" is the funniest comedy I have ever seen or read.
In "Noises Off!" a group of actors is preparing to stage a production of the smash farce "Nothing On." This is part of why this play is so funny: The play that the actors are butchering is hilarious in itself. All of the actors and stage hands are inept in their own unique way. They forget lines and stage directions, lose contact lenses and deal with a set that won't work right. In each act, at least one actor has it out for another. Flowers, bottles of alcohol and entirely too many sardines create havoc. Frayn reaches supreme physical and verbal comedy.
If you've seen it on stage, you know how funny it is (and how difficult to perform). But, the script contains hilarious "bios" of the actors that presumably appear in the playbill. And the side-by-side scripts of the second act (lines and directions for what is happening on stage and back stage) are really funny. This play is the funniest thing I've read!
Note about the movie: Unlike the movie, the play is not set in the U.S. Consequently, place names and terminology are sometimes confusing. And, the play ends differently than the movie.
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on June 16, 2016
This is easily the funniest play that I remember. I had tried to read it, but it doesn't easily open itself to the reader. You need to see it on stage. I saw it in a German translation, which didn't seem to damage the 'message'.
You look at the stage from both sides here, and the full glory of stage craft becomes most apparent when looked at from behind the stage. Outrageously hilarious.
Don't bother too much with the story, which is about a touring theatre group staging a screwball comedy. After a while, you won't be able to distinguish the actors from their characters.
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NOISES OFF is the hilarious play within a play about a group of actors performing a touring edition of a British farce entitled NOTHING ON. The reader (and performers and audience members for that matter) are only allowed to see NOTHING ON from the first act. The first time they see it, it is the night of the dress rehearsal. The next time they see the act it is from behind the stage several weeks into the company's tour. The final act of the show is once again a performance of the first act of NOTHING ON, but seen from the front of the stage several weeks later. The hilarity involved ensues from the interactions of the performers and their relationships with each other. NOISES OFF displays that as funny as a play might be from the audience, sometimes it pares in comparison to the hilarity ensuing behind the scenes.
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on April 17, 2010
...I lose my mind with laughter. Most of the lucky minority of comedy fans who have discovered "Noises Off" probably have other favorite scenes. One bored Friday in the late '80's I scanned the movie reviews and was amazed that this movie, with its flawless cast, was playing. I hadn't seen one TV ad or movie trailer.

The film shows the insanity and eccentricities of the cast, crew, and director of a farce on its way to Broadway. The first half shows the dress rehearsal, which also shows us how the play is supposed to go. Next we see a feuding cast during a Miami Beach matineee, this time from backstage. By Cleveland all hell has broken loose. Will they pull themselves together by the Broadway opening? I'm not saying.

Watching this now (2008-2010), it's hard not to feel sad about the early losses of John Ritter and Christopher Reeve, with Denholm Elliott gone as well. Reeve, Ritter, and Burnett are the most spectacular of one of the best ensembles I've ever seen. Caine is the sardonic director, Marilu Henner is the upbeat cast cheerleader, Nicolette Sheridan the cast ditz (though she gets her lines right). Special mention to Julie Hagerty and Mark Linn-Baker as crew members running themselves ragged trying in vain to keep things together.

This is extra swell if you've ever been involved with theater at any level. It aspires to take everything that usually goes wrong with almost any production and shifts it into super-overdrive. I hope the cast and crew of this film had as much fun making this as I had watching it!
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on March 15, 2016
Michael Frayn's Noises Off accomplishes the impossible: It is not only a side-splittingly funny farce in its own right, but also an homage to bedroom farces and a virtuoso examination of the form. I laughed myself silly when I first saw it staged in 1983, and found it even funnier in its current (2016) staging. But there is even more fun to be had in reading the script and seeing how brilliantly Frayn structured this play as a theme and variations. The stage directions are as funny as the dialog. Don't miss the parody of an academic discussion of farce at the very end of the book. I guarantee you'll never be able to read an academic discussion of drama without bursting into laughter.
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on June 15, 2015
Along with "Lend Me A Tenor", this is one of the best slapstick comedies ever written. The gimmick of the second act being set backstage while the play-within-the-play is being performed on the other side - which is the real set that we see in Acts 1 & 3 - is brilliantly written and calls for sharp comic timing. On the other hand, if you're only reading this play, the 2nd act will drive you crazy trying to follow the overlapping dialogue while imagining the sight gags that are going on. But give it a shot anyway. Oh, and enjoy the misplaced sardines.
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Although he critically lauded for a number of novels and plays, Michael Frayn is most specifically known as the author of NOISES OFF, an extremely popular play that had successful runs in London and New York and which has performed by virtually every professional, university, and community theatre group on the face of the earth, all the way from Finland to China.

In a general sense, NOISES OFF is basically a classic door-slammer farce, which presents a host of characters rushing around the stage and dodging in and out of various rooms in a series of humorous and increasingly confusing misunderstandings. But Frayn gives the genre a memorable twist: the play is about the performance of a play that goes hideously awry. Act One finds the director rehearsing the cast on the stage, and although the play opens tomorrow the cast seems remarkably ill-prepared, dropping lines, misplacing props, and only toward the end of the play's first act seeming to get things together. Time passes, the play opens, and in Act Two we see the same act performed--only this time from back stage. Romantic complications have set in and the cast is in an uproar, and while we hear their voices as they "perform" on the "stage," our backstage view allows for a fast and furious and almost entirely silent war between various actors. Still more time passes, and in Act Three we again see the stage from the audience point of view. Unfortunately, by this time the entire performance has gone to hell in a handbasket, and even the stage curtains collapse on the players, leaving them to wallow helplessly.

A script is basically a blue print for a performance and not really intended to be read. As such, it is often very difficult for the layman to read a playscript and have the faintest idea of how it actually works on stage. This is especially true of farce, and it particularly true of Michael Frayn's NOISES OFF, which doesn't read "funny." There is some amusement to be had in reading Act One, during which the director struggles with the cast; there is still more amusement to be had in reading Act Three, when the performance completely collapses. But Act Two is so extremely technical that it will be the rare reader who can get so much as a giggle out of it. Whatever its merits, this is really a play that is better seen than read.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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on May 29, 2016
Noises Off is the perfect example of a farce. It has all the qualities of a farce (fast paced, physical comedy, slapstick humor, etc), and I really enjoyed reading this play. Of course, it is a lot funnier if you watch it on stage or on screen, but picturing it in my head or watching an adaptation of the play makes it easier to picture as I am reading. Highly recommend!
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on March 13, 2014
I love this play, but parts are unreadable on the kindle. During the second act, the text splits into two columns, showing simultaneous dialogues and actions. The problem is, it's all in italics and small print, which makes it very fuzzy and hard to read on the paperwhite. You could increase the font size, but that doesn't work well with the dialogue and actions. Buy the hard copy.
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on March 21, 2009
This is one of my favorite comedies. It was a great movie and an even greater play. When our local drama group put it on a few years back,it was so successful that they had to continue its run for an extra week, which was unheard of. It is a brilliantly funny play and a standard for any drama group.I have seen it performed on the stage twice now and it never fails to amuse me. It is one of those plays that will be eternal.

It has a very English feel about it, which is not a bad thing, and it put me in mind of Alan Bates' 'Lust In The Dust', which is another English play, even though one of the main characters is American. That was an import also, from New Theatre Publications. Both plays are a must for the repertoire of any progressive Drama Society.
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