Magazine article The Spectator

Noises Off

Magazine article The Spectator

Noises Off

Article excerpt

At first glance they didn't look like they were going to be trouble. A boy and a girl in their late teens, possibly early twenties. He wore glasses and looked preppy, she was demure with her hair neatly tied in a ponytail. When they began talking during the overture, I thought little of it. As they chattered and giggled their way through the opening number, I kept telling myself they were probably excited to be at the theatre and would quieten down soon enough. When they were still talking during the second number I tried not to panic. When they were getting stuck into a full-blown conversation about life as Oliver began to sing 'Where Is Love' I started to worry that they didn't know what the theatre was. Should I turn round and explain that it was received practice to sit quietly facing front in order to watch the action on stage?

I decided to attempt a mild shushing exercise. My shush produced a tut. I then sat wondering whether to reassert myself by shushing back at the tut, possibly earning another tut which I would have to shush again, and so on. Of course, while all this shush-tutting was going on so was the musical, so I resolved to try to ignore them. But once you have tuned into an annoying distraction, it is impossible to tune out, and no matter how loudly the cast sang all I could hear was giggle, chatter, chatter, giggle.

By the time Oliver was sitting up in bed in the kindly gentleman's house as the flower girl sang about her sweet, red roses I was ready to bang their preppy heads together.

He had moved on from meaningless banter and was now pretentiously deconstructing the production in a feeble attempt to impress her. 'This is all a bit heavy-handed, ' he prattled, as I tried to be moved by my favourite number. 'They are reintroducing the main theme and reinforcing the earlier characterisations.'

I fantasised about turning round and saying: 'Look, spoddy, she's never going to sleep with you. It doesn't matter if you're Jean-Paul Sartre's long-lost son she's way too pretty and she's wearing the highestneck blouse she could find in her wardrobe.

So give it up and let me watch the bloody musical, which, by the way, is meant to be heavy-handed and obvious so hard-working people like me can lose themselves for a few hours and not have to think about the horrible realities of the world that is full of spoilt, opinionated little plonkers like you who ought to be put in workhouses and fed gruel until they learn some manners. …

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