ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Frayn is an English playwright, novelist, and translator, currently
living outside of London with his wife Claire Tomalin, an English biographer and
journalist. He is best known as the playwright for the farce comedy Noises Off (1982), and the dramas Copenhagen (1998) and Democracy (2003). His novels,
Towards the End of the Morning (1967), Headlong (1999), and Spies (2002),
have also received critical acclaim, making Mr. Frayn one of a handful of English
language writers to succeed in both drama and prose fiction.
Michael was born in Ewell (a suburb of London) on September 8, 1933. His
father, Thomas Allen Frayn, was a sales representative for an asbestos company,
and his mother, Violet Alice Lawson Frayn, was a shop assistant. Frayn was
educated at the prestigious Kingston Grammar School until age twelve when
the death of his mother left the family with some financial hardships. He was
transferred to a public school where we was very successful academically,
particularly in the areas of writing and music. During his two years of National
Service, Frayn learned Russian at the Joint Services School for Linguists. He
went on to study Philosophy and graduated in 1957 from Emmanuel College in
Cambridge. After graduation, Michael worked as a reporter and columnist for The
Guardian and The Observer. He established a reputation as a satirist and comic
writer and began publishing novels.
By 1970, Michael had published three popular novels, The Tin Men, The Russian
Interpreter, and A Very Private Life. His journey as a playwright was not as easy.
He wrote a number of rejected scripts and even produced an evening of his own
short plays that was not received well by the audience or critics. However, Frayn
kept on writing. In 1982, with the publication of Noises Off, Michael Fryan
earned his third Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy of the Year. The first
two were Alphabetical Order (1972) and Make or Break (1980), both are typical
English office comedies. Copenhagen (1998) won Michael his fourth Evening
Standard Award for Best Play of the Year in 1998, as well as the 2000 Tony
Award for Best Play.
In addition to his extensive playwrighting and fiction career, Michael Frayn is
noted to be one of Britain’s foremost translators of Chekov, adapting The Seagull,
Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard. Frayn has also written
screenplays for the films Clockwise, starring John Cleese, First and Last, starring
Tom Wilkinson, and the TV series Making Faces starring Eleanor Bron.
ABOUT THE PLAY
Critic Frank Rich has claimed that "Noises Off is, was, and probably always will
be the funniest play written in my lifetime.” And we certainly agree with that! The
idea for the piece came when Michael Frayn was standing in the wings watching
a performance of Chinamen, a farce that he had written for Lynn Redgrave.
Frayn said that the show was funnier from backstage than in the audience and he
wanted to write a farce from behind the scenes. It began as a one-act play called
Exits in 1977 and was expanded and rewritten a number of times.
Michael Frayn wrote Noises Off in 1982 and it became an instant commercial
hit with continuing international fame. It premiered at the Lyric Theatre in London
to ecstatic reviews and quickly moved to the West End at the Savoy Theatre,
where it ran until 1987, passing the 1000th performance mark. It won the Evening
Standard Award for Best Comedy in
The Broadway premiere was on December 11, 1983 at the Brooks Atkinson
Theatre. It ran for 553 performances and earned a Tony Award for Best Play and
a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble.
Noises Off has become a staple of professional theatre companies, university
theatre programs, and community theatres all over the world. Frayn has
rewritten the play over the years, with the latest revision in 2000. One of the
newest sequences is the introduction to act three, where Tim and Poppy make
simultaneous apologies that delay the performance. Certain sequences have been altered or cut from the script entirely. And references that date the play, like Mrs.
Clackett’s to the Brents having a color television, have been eliminated or rewritten
The National Theatre in London mounted a revival in 2000 that ran for two
years. It returned to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in November of 2001, where
it was nominated for both a Tony and Drama Desk Award for Best Revival of a
Play. The most recent London revivals ran at the Old Vic Theatre from December
3, 2011 to March 10, 2012 and then the Novello Theatre from March 24 to June
30, 2012. Following was a successful tour through Britain and Ireland.
In 1992, the play was adapted for the screen by Marty Kaplan. It was directed
by Peter Bogdanovich and starred Mark Linn-Baker, Carol Burnett, Michael
Caine, Denholm Elliott, Julie Hagerty, Marilu Henner, Christopher Reeve, John
Ritter, and Nicollette Sheridan. While it had stellar cast and was a funny film,
many critics did not think the theatrical nature of the piece translated well to the
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
In a world that is in need of more laughter, Director Paul Mason Barnes is thrilled
to be bringing the jaw-dropping great time of Noises Off to the PCPA audience.
Michael Frayn’s brilliantly written British farce about life on and off stage during a
British farce, is a play about craft, precision and timing. One of the funniest plays
ever written, get ready for an unpredictable roller coaster ride through the creative
process of putting on a play and the relationships that help, or hinder, that.
When asked to describe the play in one sentence, Mr. Barnes said: Everything
that can possibly go awry goes awry as a well-intentioned, second rate troupe
of traveling players tours the English provinces with the sex farce, Nothing On.
In one word: lunacy. The biggest challenge when working on this piece is the
demand for real craftsmanship so that the audience never gets lost or falls behind
the story. They have to be able to follow the action from one point to the next
seamlessly so that when we arrive at the end of the ride, no one is left behind in
the dust. This is the pay off, all of the set-ups, large and small, making sense to the
audience. Farce is infused with its own specific sense of logic. The play demands
much repetition, clarity, precision, and a great deal of economy to make it work.
In beginning the creative process for Noises Off, Paul was resolute that the
only acceptable concept for bringing this story to life is to adhere to the brilliance
of Michael Frayn’s ingenious script and do everything that we can to follow the
intention of the playwright. Frayn has provided a road map that must be paid
attention to and needs no imposition. Paul believes that we live in an age of
the director-auteur where directors are encouraged to put their own stamp on a
production, regardless of what is required by the text, sometimes ignoring the text
to put their own “bright ideas” on stage. To try to do this with Noises Off would
be folly of the highest order.
Another challenging element in working on Noises Off is the ability (or lack
thereof) to stop laughing long enough in rehearsal that we’ll get the job done
by opening night. Mr. Barnes’s greatest fear would be to fall in love with our
own cleverness and to go to the place where you veer away from intention and
truthfulness to that oh-so-tempting place where you’re trying to make things funnier
than they already are. Theatre professionals can get trapped by the idea that
if a little bit of one thing or another feels good or provokes laughter, than a lot
more of that thing will feel even better or garner bigger laughs. Paul’s concern
is that even though there will certainly be moments of tripping into this hole, that
the team is able to recognize when they have tumbled and extricate themselves
before the audience is numbed into silence and doesn’t respond at all because we
all seem to be too busy entertaining ourselves rather than telling Michael Frayn’s
story. Adhering to the intention of the playwright is vital to crafting a triumphant
production. And of course, following the determined attitude of Belinda and her
insistence that the “show must go on,” no matter how much is unraveling!