News Story

With a stage and screen career now spanning more than 50 years, actor Matthew Kelly talks about playing Selsdon Mowbray in Noises Off, the Theatre Royal Bath production direct from the West End and coming to CFT from 9 - 13 January 2024.

Matthew Kelly as Selsdon in Noises Off Image: Pamela Raith 2023

“Touring plays is such a fantastic experience because you become a family, I love a company of actors,” he says. “You become very close to people because, particularly in a play like this one, you have to trust people you don’t know very quickly.

“So, for instance, in my part I come on kind of once every five to ten pages, say something funny and disappear off again. But I have to be on the side of the stage the whole time because unless you’re listening to it, you can’t just bob on, do one line, come off and go back to your dressing room. It's so tightly choreographed and absolutely drilled into us what we need to do when. Otherwise you couldn’t do it.

“If you drop one line or if you forget something then the whole thing falls apart. It relies on everyone relying on everyone and that is pretty much what touring a play is like. There’s usually a lot of larking around on tour although there’s not a lot of hysteria as actors are generally incredibly supportive and kind. Or maybe I’m just busy having a lovely time so I don’t notice.”

Having celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, why does Matthew believe the play has lasted so well?

Noises Off is a genius piece of writing and Michael Frayn, who is now 89, has been with us from the start of this production and he is very supportive. He understands chaos and yet it is clever because it’s so interweaved. What’s so thrilling about good writing in theatre is that the audience feels like they’re part of it, or at least a fly on the wall watching it and that’s what I love about theatre.”

Dan Fredenburgh as Garry, Liza Goddard as Dotty and Matthew Kelly as Selsdon in Noises Off Image: Pamela Raith 2023

And what about your character, the part of Selsdon, an elderly actor who enjoys a tipple or two?

“My character is great, he’s an old drunk so I’ve based my entire career on the part! I’m digging deep for it and I’ve done a lot of research!” laughs Matthew. “I love the part for lots of reasons. One is that he’s the oldest in the company and people are quite respectful of the elderly but also he’s somebody who is really sweet and really annoying at the same time and has absolutely no idea what’s going on. It’s my kind of part.

“But it does have its challenges – running up and down stairs and climbing in and out of windows when I’ve got two new hips for example. It’s physically quite hard.”

5 Stars

Lindsay Posner’s miraculously choreographed revival is proof that Noises Off has lost none of its power to reduce adults to hysterical, helpless wrecks

Mail on Sunday

This production premiered at Theatre Royal Bath last autumn before playing the West End earlier this year.

“The West End was packed and people just so wanted to be entertained by a brilliant play and that company were just marvellous,” says Matthew. “To see a theatre packed like that after a pandemic was wonderful. It’s the kind of theatre that we need. It’s joyful, it’s exciting, it’s intelligent, it’s a thrilling piece of theatre and it will have people absolutely rocking in their seats.

“I’ve watched with the audience because my first entrance is not until half-way through the first act so I sit at the back of the stalls watching them laughing. And because it has got so many different layers to it, people are laughing at so many different things at the same time and it’s very rare in a farce that you can see that. Even I still laugh at it and what it does.”

Noises Off will run in the Festival Theatre from 9 - 13 January, a perfect New Year treat for those looking for a giggle!