Noises Off: interview with director Blanche McIntyre
(Upbeat music plays) Noises Off is on my ‘bucket list’ of plays. Noises Off is one of the plays that everyone wants to do before they die, me particularly. It is just the greatest farce ever written. It is a brilliant comedy, it has various existential things to say about the way chaos invades everybody’s life. Mostly, it’s just a really good night, and a really good time. Noises Off is a farce, inside a farce. So, you have a traditional sex farce, woops, no trousers, doors opening and shutting objects flying everywhere, kind of farce. But it has been put on by a group of are not making a very good job of it, so the backstage farce starts to overtake the onstage farce and over the course of three disastrous tech, matinee and final show, the whole thing collapses into one collective nervous breakdown. Farce is notoriously difficult and all farces contain challenges about timing, and about technique. For example you have to say the line before the door shuts, Or you have to say the line after the door shuts One of them will be funny, one of them won’t. If you do both at the same time, the whole thing falls apart. So, this has got to be very precise, very high speed and the acting has also got to be real. So combining those two things is always a challenge with farce. With Noises Off, because it’s a kind of rubix cube of farce, There is that third element, you got to have one farce working and then the other farce working on top. Sometimes with it and sometimes working against it. So that’s going to be an enormous challenge; to keep all that going, and not drop any plates. Lots of different things happen on the first day of rehearsals. The most importing thing is that the building and the company all meet each other. So you have half an hour of shaking hands, standing around, chatting, making conversation. It sounds like not much, but actually it’s a big deal, if you’re meeting a lot of strange people and you know you’re going to have to make a show together, with these total strangers. Another thing that happens is the model box showing This is where the actors discoverer what it is they are going to be acting on. Luckily with Noises Off it’s a classic shape, You know you’ve got to have a certain amount of doors, You know you’ve got to have a certain amount of staircases, So with this one, they will be approaching it, I hope, Feeling more like they know what is coming and less like we’re going to do it on a concrete slab or anything else that could phase an actor The third thing, and the last thing that happens, and this is the big test for everyone, is the read through. This is everyone sitting down, reading their parts I’ll read the stage directions, and we get a sense of the play, as it is, as a whole. With Noises Off, this is going to be unusual, because there is a whole second act which is mostly silent. So approaching that will be a challenge, but what what I hope that will do, is act as a bit of an ice-breaker for everyone. I think there is a very good reason why Noises Off continues to appeal, and it’s actually not to do with the comedy. One of the things that happens in Noises Off, because the characters are actors, they are working tirelessly, whatever they may feel backstage, to keep the show on the road, and to keep it going, and many of the laughs come from the fact that they are in absolute chaos backstage, but they are still trying to keep up the appearances of normality, or success, of ease, when they out out front doing their show, and for me that feels like quite a profound statement about how all of us live I think everybody goes through patches where they feel they are paddling like mad underneath, and trying to look like everything is under control up above and I suspect that is the reason why it is such a classic, because although it rings all the farce bells, with consummate ease it also says something universal to everyone who is watching.