The farce-within-a-farce Noises Off debuted in London in 1982, at the Lyric Theatre, directed by Michael Blakemore and starring Patricia Routledge, Paul Eddington, and Nicky Henson. Immediately a popular hit, the production transferred to the West End, where it won the Olivier Award for Best Play and the London Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy, both in 1982. This production ran for five more years with five different casts, while Blakemore opened a second production opening on Broadway in December of 1983 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, starring Dorothy Loudon, Victor Garber, Douglas Seale, and Deborah Rush. This production received a Tony nomination in 1984 for Best Play, and won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble.
West End and Broadway revivals of Noises Off include the National Theatre production of October 2000, which transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End in May of 2001, directed by by Jeremy Sams and featuring Patricia Hodge, Peter Egan, and Aden Gillett, and transferred again to Broadway, again at the Brooks Atkinson, in November of 2001, with Patti LuPone, Peter Gallagher, and Faith Prince in the cast. This production was nominated for a Best Revival Tony Award. Another London revival opened at the Old Vic in December 2011, transferring to the Novello Theatre in the West End in March of 2012. This production featured Jonathan Coy, Jamie Glover, Celia Imrie, and Janie Dee. Most recently, a Broadway revival opened at the American Airlines Theatre in December of 2015, starring Andrea Martin, Megan Hilty, Campbell Scott, Jeremy Shamos, David Furr, Rob McClure, Daniel Davis, Kate Jennings Grant, and Tracee Chimo. This production received 2016 Tony nominations for Best Revival of a Play, Best Featured Actress and Actor, and Best Costume Design.
Noises Off has only grown in popularity since its initial smash-hit status, and has become a staple of educational, community, and professional theatres around the world (as of Summer 2016, there are 54 upcoming productions across the United States and Western Europe). Playwright Michael Frayn got the idea for the show in 1970, as he watched a production of his farce The Two of Us from backstage, and decided that the goings-on behind the scenes were just as entertaining as the play onstage. He first conceived of the show as a 15-minute one-act in which the audience experienced events onstage and backstage simultaneously, but expanded it when he realized that there was too much action to comfortably absorb at once. He initially drew inspiration from the classic French comedies of Georges Feydeau for his play-within-a-play, but ultimately decided that the slightly less high-brow English sex farce should be his model. Frayn has re-written extensively since the 1982 premiere, most recently for the National Theatre production in 2000 (which this guide follows), partially in order to get rid of references which date the play, such as the desirability of a color television.
Frayn, Michael. Noises Off. Samuel French, 2004.
Sod, Ted. “Interview with Playwright Michael Frayn”. Roundabout Theatre Company, Roundabout Blog. 7th December, 2015. Accessed 17 June 2016.
Samuel French website. Noises Off. http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2894/noises-off.
Accessed 17 June 2016.