If you are farce-averse, Michael Frayn's Noises Off (about an acting company's shenanigans) is likely to leave you hatchet-faced. I had never got the hang of it until now. But Lindsay Posner's fantastic pick-me-up of a production has made me a born-again lover of farce and of Frayn's virtuoso engineering. I giggled myself silly throughout. But where to start with this virtuoso shambles? This is Celia Imrie's problem, too, as sardine-obsessed Dotty. She cannot manage first lines or moves – she is priceless. Jamie Glover's Garry, who plays a randy, breathless estate agent, is sublimely funny and athletic (he takes a death-defying tumble downstairs). But when he first barges onto the bourgeois set (designer: Peter McKintosh) calling it a "shack in the woods", what he is actually after is a shag in the woods with Brooke (brilliantly gormless Amy Nuttall). Janie Dee's exquisite Belinda is also on the prowl. Her precise professionalism becomes ever more ludicrous as everything goes wrong around her. Jonathan Coy is adorable as Freddie, her glum, neurotic other half. The stagehands are entertainingly frantic: Aisling Loftus as hapless Poppy and Paul Ready as exploited, unshaven Tim. Robert Glenister's Lloyd, the philandering director, talks nonsense dressed as profundity and knows how to pace his idiocies: "That's sardines. That's theatre and" – offered as an uncertain afterthought – "that's life." And Karl Johnson's burglar would, were it not for so much competition, steal this stunning show.
Noises Off – review
Kate Kellaway is a feature writer and deputy theatre critic for the Observer