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Review: The Noise at Northern Stage, Newcastle

Barbara Hodgson takes in the premiere of "sci-conspiracy" thriller The Noise at Northern Stage, Newcastle

Rachel Gay as Charlie in The Noise at Northern Stage
Rachel Gay as Charlie in The Noise at Northern Stage

There's one guaranteed way to keep audiences on the edge of their seats and that’s by denying them an interval.

Over one non-stop hour and 40 minutes, we’ve no escape from the strange insular world where we find ourselves in what’s billed as a “sci-conspiracy thriller”.

We’re fully immersed in this remote island community, with its odd noises and odd people who, we gradually come to realise, wear ear-plugs to give them some respite from an ever-present sound that most have learned to live with, although sometimes they’re on the brink of going stir-crazy and have to be calmed down.

Only 17-year-old Charlie (Rachel Gay), who has a knack of analysing noise, and her geeky pal Harry (Jerry Killick, who undergoes a great transformation later into a sinister new arrival) ask questions about its source, while her mother Frances (Viktoria Kay), in chunky knitwear and furry hats (and a tongue-in-cheek nod to Fargo), represents island law and comes down heavy on anyone rocking the boat.

An atmospheric, disjointed soundscape and cold metal set with a radio tower and eerie blue outline of an iceberg that has made a sudden offshore appearance all add to an unsettling sense of mystery, while additional sounds of wind and seagulls conjure up such a sense of place we can almost smell the sea air.

This Northern Stage co-production with Unlimited Theatre writers Clare Duffy, Jon Spooner and Chris Thorpe – which is due to tour after its Newcastle premiere – grows on us over that running time into an intriguing, off-kilter story touching on conspiracy and control with a hidden hatch (in the style of TV series Lost) and a few red herrings along the way.

We might be left with a question mark over that iceberg but we don’t mind as the story’s ending has plenty in it to satisfy.

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