If I wanted to be more pompous than usual I would point out that it was rather absurd for those three people to leave halfway through the performance (perhaps following the diktat of certain bloggers). It was a little mystifying; everybody else seemed to be having a rather good time and it certainly wasn’t at a natural break (i.e. in the gap between plays – as there was no interval). Whatever their reasons (at the time I suspected that they where disgusted at the notion of so much laughter in the Donmar), they missed a rather interesting mime where Lyndsey Marshal had an invisible man burying his head in her bosom. They also missed Judith Scott almost corpsing during Gladly Otherwise.
While I enjoyed the plays, especially the N.F. Simpson ones I did get the odd feeling that I was watching museum pieces as if “one simply doesn’t do plays like that anymore”. It’s a pity but I suppose that a genre where the extraordinary, weird and/or absurd are treated as ordinary is easily open to abuse by bad writers and worse plays. I could see how things could feel contrived and heavy handed if wrongly handled.
Michael Frayn’s play the Crimson Hotel didn’t really fit with N.F. Simpsons pair of plays, it was perhaps too cerebral and not as linguistically playful. All the same as a fan of Feydeau farces I enjoyed the setup of the play and it wasn’t just because mister Frayn happened to be in the audience.
When I first saw the set something about it reminded slightly of a very famous Buster Keaton stunt (I also think that a recreation of it won the Turner Prize – later, Deadpan by Steve McQueen). It turned out that they did a variation on the stunt to change the set between plays.
One last thing to remember if you see the plays: In the Crimson Hotel don’t applaud until the spotlight shining on the picnic basket goes out, otherwise, as happened during this performance, the actors have to wait for the applause to die down before they say (or repeat) their final lines. Of course with Michael Frayn’s reputation for changing his plays (almost every major production of Noises Off seems to produce another heavily re-written version of the play) he may have altered it the next time it’s performed.