As the spring season returns after its Easter hiatus, The Real Inspector Hound graces the New Theatre stage. This play is an incredibly entertaining foray into the world of the amateur whodunit and snobbish theatre critics, but one that left this critic strangely unsatisfied.
The play, a play within a play, follows two theatre critics, Moon and Birdboot, as they arrive at the Royal Theatre to watch a murder mystery. As the play progresses, we find the line between the reality of the critics and the play they are watching, blurred. Cue hilarity, as the blurb so accurately states.
Oliver Margolis, at the helm of a production for the first time, has brought out an assured and intelligent performance from his actors. His perhaps inevitable decision to have his cast “ham it up”, as is the expression, works sublimely well, indeed Stoppard’s text calls out for such treatment. The audience was quite literally rolling in their seats with laughter such was the perfection attained by the cast in both timing and delivery. Enunciation was, at times, a slight issue, a small blip on an otherwise faultless cast.
I cannot heap enough praise on the technical side of this production. A set of ambitious proportions rarely seen on the New Theatre stage, creates the space for the action to unfurl. If nothing else, a trip to see this play is worth it for the mere sight of such a feat of technical dexterity and artistic flair. This is complemented by an extraordinary and subtle lighting and sound design, which is used to great comedic effect throughout the play.
Yet despite my praise for the obvious merits of this cast’s dedication and hard work, I could not help feeling like something was missing. The play seemed to want to speak deeply and profoundly on theatre, it’s silly conventions, it’s preconceived notions of genre, it’s pompous critics, even its theatricality. Stoppard’s text has always been renowned for its depth and intelligence; somehow this wasn’t conveyed in the performance. It became a riotously entertaining hour of ideas presented shallowly.
Over all, an enjoyable performance, one that without a doubt entertains. The sincere congratulations go out to Oliver and his team for bringing to stage this outstanding play.
But then again, this is merely the opinion of this reviewer.
By Cesar Teixeira