Interview with Matthew Kelly about Noises Off

Posted on 6 February 2023

The hugely anticipated transfer of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off is now playing at the Phoenix Theatre. The hilariously madcap play within a play, which boasts an all-star cast has transferred to the West End for a strictly limited eight-week run following an acclaimed UK tour. 

Michael Frayn created Noises Off as an homage to the thrilling unpredictability of live theatre. The farce follows a hapless company trying to put on a titillating comedy entitled “Nothing On”. Bedlam ensues with costume catastrophes, disastrous set pieces and calamitous cast mishaps, which all result in a break-neck speed stage show that is sure to get your pulse racing. 

The 40th anniversary production stars stage and screen legend Felicity Kendal (Anything GoesThe Good Life) alongside Tracy-Ann Oberman (EastendersFriday Night Dinner) and Matthew Kelly (The DresserWaiting For Godot) as Selsdon Mowbray, a mature actor with a penchant for a surreptitious tipple. 

We caught up with Matthew Kelly, who told us: “It’s an absolute classic, it’s the original and the best, I think because it’s so clever and it’s so tightly woven”. He explains: “I play Selsdon, who is old, drunk, not really there and doesn’t really know it. He’s just a bit vague, really, and so he kind of wanders through the whole thing. I just turn up every ten pages, say something funny and then leave again. It’s marvellous and just the way I like it.”

Matthew has had a connection with the play for its full forty-year life. “I was up for the original takeover 40 years ago, playing the Garry Lejeune part, which is being played by Joseph Millson in this production and he’s marvellous.” Matthew tells us. “It’s an absolutely fantastic company.”

He continues: “We have Tracy-Anne Oberman with Jonathan Coy, and they make a fantastic couple in this. Joseph Millson drives it with Sasha Frost. Felicity Kendal, and I dink in and out; her with sardines and me with whiskey, so it’s lovely.” 

Brimming with slick slapstick and side-splitting one-liners Noises Off is a comedy masterclass and as frictions amongst the cast increases, so does the pace of the performance. 

“When you get it right and play it at speed it’s thrilling.” Matthew said: “Organised chaos is the hardest thing to do. It was incredibly difficult to learn because we had to drill it. We rehearsed morning noon and night. Sometimes we just did a few seconds at a time and then went back over it. Repetition is the way to do it, parrot fashion until it’s absolutely drilled into you, so you only do certain things at certain times. You cannot deviate from it because if you do, it’s not funny. Michael Frayn has been very, very specific about what he’s written”.

Book tickets for Noises Off today!

Noises Off is set to thrill audiences once again for a limited 8-week run from 19 January 2023. If you want to catch this incredible show in its London run, you can book tickets through London Theatre Direct now!