Date of Award

Spring 1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts in Theatre: Directing



First Advisor

Bryan C. Reeder

Second Advisor

Ann Canale

Third Advisor

Donnell B. Walsh


Over the years I have been exposed to hundreds of shows, some excellent and other's not quite as good. Few shows that I have read, seen, or been involved with seem to have the appeal to both audiences and theatre groups as that of Michael Frayn's modem farce Noises Off. There are several strong reasons for its appeal.

One of the primary reasons for the play's popularity is that it is a reaction against modem theatre's tendency toward preaching at the audience. Contemporary plays tend to teach morality; and while modern playwrights do occasionally use comedy as a vehicle to highlight societal ills, humor usually is achieved through intellectual dramatic dialogue. Noises Off does not fall into this trap. Frayn is not trying to change the world; rather he is giving it a light slap on the wrist. This play was written simply to entertain, using physical comedy instead of cerebral comedy.

This play appeals not only to the audience who view it but also to the theatre department which presents it. The primary reason for this is the :immense and varied challenges this show offers. One of the first challenges within the collective element of working with others will be the auditions. The director must find a cast which is not only talented, but which can also work well together in the short time allotted for rehearsal.

Again, because of the limited rehearsal period, more obstacles will have to be overcome. The director will be called upon to use her leadership, listening, and problem solving abilities. The most important aspect of Noises Off is the physical comedy. Ordinarily, blocking supports the dramatic action. In the case of this play the blocking becomes the dramatic action. Finally, working with the technical crew on a production which demands two full sets in a small physical environment will provide further challenges.

The reason many theatre departments select this show is that everyone in both the cast and crew will learn more about their craft and their abilities. All the roles are equal, which makes the play an ensemble piece, and every technical department (i.e. costumes, lighting, carpentry) will be facing different challenges that will be new and exciting.

The sheer entertainment value of this show has been proven time and time again. The original Broadway production proved this by surviving an incredible 553 performance run (Sheward 285). If done well both the audience and the crew/ cast will enjoy the experience. The show is refreshing, the characters interesting, the dialogue witty, and the laughs (hopefully) nonstop. This director hopes to rise to the occasion.

This thesis will support all of the above statements in the five chapters. Chapter One will be an investigation of farce from a historical view and will examine its influences on modern theatre farce. Chapter Two will detail a brief history of playwright Michael Frayn: his distinctive style, how his other works compare to this one, how Noises Off has been received and/ or changed since its inception, and Frayn's critical writings on modern theatre. The play analysis outlined in Francis Hodge's textbook Play Directing is covered in Chapter Three. The forth chapter will consist of the rehearsal log kept during that particular stage of the creative process. Lastly the appendices will include all other applicable material (i.e. a copy of the program, surveys of the cast, crew, and audience, production photos, a ground plan, a copy of the survey the cast and crew filled out, and anything else deemed suitable).