Noises Off

Incorporating all the classic elements of farce, Noises Off ranks as one of the best British comedies ever written. The new production by LIndsay Posner at the Old Vic is as good a performance of the Michael Frayn script as you can hope to see. Celia Imrie and Amy Nuttall provide a touch of star quality but it’s every man for himself in this raucous romp through the perils of a fast-paced farce, which we get to see rather unusually, from the other side of the stage. All of the behind the scenes action is only made more manic by the off-stage relationships between the actors which gradually break down as the play progresses across the three acts. Expect plenty of slamming doors, mistaken identities, and the unexplained presence of sardines, but all in all it’s one of the best laughs you could hope to have over this winter theatre season.

Noises Off is on at The Old Vic in London until 10 March 2012.


Jack Whitehall @ Hammersmith Apollo

As his role in the new comedy show ‘Fresh Meat’ continues to secure Jack Whitehall as a household name, on November 8th I attended one of the final performances of his ‘Let’s Not Speak Of This Again’ tour. For most people in the audience, there appeared to be a general curiosity about what Whitehall would be like when he wasn’t on television, and where better to demonstrate that than in the mecca of comedy venues – the HMV Hammersmith Apollo.

For contemporary Britain, Whitehall offers a refreshing comedic type – he’s neither the traditional camp talk show host, nor the middle aged, made-for-panel-show, lamenting house husband. He’s young, he’s marketable, and something of an expert on popular culture – regularly tearing apart celebrities and mocking C-list wannabes from reality TV shows. He’s not, however, just one of the lads. He’s on fairly good terms with his feminine side (see how effortlessly Google suggests the word ‘gay’ as you search his name), although he is a confident heterosexual; and of course, he is undeniably posh.

In fact, being posh is Whitehall’s primary source of self-mocking – it is most likely the explanation behind the stoic statement which gives the tour its name. Of course there are his general inadequacies in the pursuit of growing up, but such anecdotes tend to be so full of references to his privileged background that it’s difficult to escape it as an overarching theme. When he tells us his school (Marlborough if you’re interested) was “so Caucasian, it made Midsomer Murders look like The Wire”, he manages to mock his own origins suitably whilst keeping the audience on his side, still managing to make a down-to-earth impression on people like Dom – the evening’s typical lad with a beer in the front row who is repeatedly picked as a port-of-call when Whitehall questions his own masculinity.

At 23, Whitehall is still quite young, and the many stories of his youth are coloured by the presence of his mother and father in the audience, at what is effectively his hometown gig. As is the case with most comedians, his parents are highly caricatured – presented as the creators of the attention-seeking yet self-loathing performer we see before us. He tells of how his mother held up his stained underwear to demonstrate why Kate married William instead of him (not that that was ever a real possibility), and how his father confiscated his roller blades to prevent him from looking like “a sissy” at the ripe old age of 11 (before realising it was something of a lost cause). As hindsight begins to kick in though, he is fearful that they may have been right all along. That being said, the fact that he can mime trying to quietly hump a girl at his parents’ house while they watch from just a few rows away, gives as much credit to his relationship with them as it does to him as an entertainer.

The show twists and winds through tales of failed relationships with girls and successful relationships with chain restaurants; his love of retro mobile phones and his hatred of American customer service; and his imagined relationship with ‘old school pal’ Robert Pattinson. Finally, he appears dressed in the bright yellow chicken costume he was wearing as he drunkenly tried to prove his maturity to a disgruntled girlfriend. He is currently single.

Jack Whitehall’s ‘Let’s Not Speak Of This Again’ tour is sold out, but will have a DVD release on 26 November. Next year he will star in his own prime time Channel 4 show called ‘Hit The Road Jack’.