REVIEW BY AMELIA GROOM
Featuring Tom Stoppard’s masterly wit, wordplay and self-referential comedy, The Real Inspector Hound is a rollicking murder-mystery spoof that turns the formulaic ‘whodunnit’ genre upside down and inside out.
Currently being performed at New Theatre, it opens with Moon and Birdfoot, two pompous theatre critics, attending the production of a new theatrical thriller. All the classic ingredients of crime fiction are there – an unidentified dead body, an isolated country house, a dark and stormy night, suspicious guests with hidden agendas, a faithful housekeeper and a mysterious stranger.
Like Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, it uses a ‘play within a play’ structure to examine ideas of fate and freewill. When the critics come to find themselves in the midst of the action on stage, there are parallel plot lines and absurd, deadly consequences.
Stoppard, who used to be a theatre critic himself, brilliantly sends up the pretension cynicism, self-aggrandizement and intellectual wankery of drama criticism. Moon and Birdfoot both have petty hang-ups about their reputations and positions in the hierarchies of their profession, and when the stage world blurs with reality they are able to momentarily live out their fantasies within the play.
Satarising not only the role of the theatre critic but of theatre itself, it deals with the lack of a Fourth Wall, the relationship between real life and art, and the role of the audience. With cookie-cutter stereotype characters and unlikely, timed radio announcements, it also specifically lampoons murder mystery ‘whodunnits’.
Directed by Frank McNamara, this production is sharp, funny and well cast. With standout performances from Lynden Jones as Moon and Richard Cox as Simon Gascoyne, the acting can border on tedium with melodrama, but I suppose that’s the sort of play it is.
The Real Inspector Hound
Until July 5
542 King St, Newtown
Bookings: 1300 306 776 or www.mca-tix.com