The Real Inspector Hound
CATHERINE TRINDER: “I felt the need to hide my notepad in shame as these ‘critics’ made such a merciless mockery of themselves and the whole noble profession.”
Fitzpatrick Theatre at Queens’, 16-20th November, 7.45pm, £5-6.
Directed by Christabel Rose & Madeleine Hammond.
An isolated house on the moor, a pretty young filly in a disconcertingly short tennis dress, and a dead body onstage from the word ‘go’; Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound takes the classic features of the whodunnit genre and weaves them into a bizarre plotline where Nothing Is Quite What It Seems.
It is more likely to have you falling off your seat from laughter than on the edge of it, in that state of nervous tension only created by murder mysteries and X-Factor finals. Written as a play within a play, it begins with theatre critics Moon and Birdboot (played excellently by Oliver Marsh and Kit Hildyard), taking their seats to watch the murder mystery, but only after walking through the actual audience, house lights still up, all nice and metatheatrical. I felt the need to hide my notepad in shame as these ‘critics’ made such a merciless mockery of themselves and the whole noble profession.
Midway through, however, the plot takes a turn to the absurd when these supposed theatre critics join the cast onstage. And a ludicrous repetition of events occurs as conversations between the critics and the actors mimic those that the characters have just had. Rose and Hammond’s direction allowed these scenes to be farcical and funny, keeping the audience chuckling throughout. Generally the dialogue was well-paced and snappy, although a few speeches at the beginning were a little too fast, meaning lines did not get the laughs they deserved.
The melodramatic stock characters were played well by a strong cast; Christabel Rose was hilarious as the nosy tattle-tale house keeper Mrs Drudge, Pete Skidmore was suitably eccentric as the play’s namesake Inspector Hound and Rachel Wilkinson’s portrayal of Felicity reminded me of a younger, better-looking Mrs Piggy; petulant and girlish.
The exaggerated over-acting of certain comic lines was effective, although occasionally overplayed, and the two scenes at the card table were particularly successful at relaying humorous sub-texts. Finally, a special mention must go to Nathan Gower, who I feel exceeded all expectations in his portrayal of ‘the Body’, (I know I certainly couldn’t lie that still for that long).
While this play was not quite one of the ‘summits in the range of contemporary theatre’ suggested by Moon and Birdboot, it was definitely good for a giggle and a fine way to spend a cold winter evening.