Noises Off is a play by British author Michael Frayn which premièred at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London, in 1982 (ISBN 1400031605).
In Noises Off, Frayn makes use of the old tradition of the play within a play, specifically the variant in which a repertory theatre company is touring around performing a play, which is then also shown on stage (cf. Kiss Me, Kate). Under the direction of Lloyd Dallas, the company perform a classic farce entitled Nothing On. (There is even a facsimile of the entire theatre programme included in the playscript of Noises Off.) At the same time the actors and actresses have to cope with their own personal problems such as aging, falling in and out of love, jealousy, and professional envy.
Noises Off has had successful runs on both sides of the Atlantic and also in German-speaking countries. While playwrights such as Ray Cooney are keeping up the tradition of the English farce, Frayn's play is a deliberate send-up of that tradition. (Noises Off is partly inspired by Frayn's experiences with his earlier play Chinamen, which was straight farce; he once commented that during a performance of that play, the chaos behind the scenes was often more entertaining than the action on-stage.)
The play is done in three acts; act one is the final dress rehearsal; act two is the opening night, but seen from backstage; act three is the performance long into the run. Much of the comedy emerges from the subtle variations in the performance each time as off-stage chaos affects on-stage performance.
In 1992, the play was adapted into a comedy film, Noises Off..., directed by Peter Bogdanovich and based on Frayn's play, with a screenplay by Marty Kaplan.
Noises Off won the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy in 1982.