Photos - Bob Seary
The New Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound empirically conflates a symphony of courageous and incandescent artistry, confronting the major theoretical paradoxes of our time in a vicissitudinal and morphological methodology that counteracts the post structuralist deconstruction of our time. This evokes, ipso facto, the post-apocalyptic siren of supplementary levels of linguistic organisation riding on a delicate undercurrent of existentialist introspection of the concept of play-within-a-play, and surely carries the reader on waves of rococo prose, shaped with exquisite mastery and piquancy, towards the highest point of bel esprit and je ne sais quoi. In an intelligibility of madness and the soul, his magnificent opus ad eundum serves to problematise the very nature of theatre and time in a one-act masterpiece that both confounds and reimagines Stoppard's fellow literary potentates Joyce, White, Baudrillard, Cixous, Pratchett, and Kurosawa.
Well, not really, but as a humble reviewer who had a great time watching this production, I thought I should have a crack at the cleverly-lambasted pompous theatre critic approach that Tom Stoppard pokes fun in The Real Inspector Hound.
New Theatre's Hound, directed by Frank McNamara, offers a night of great fun at the theatre with a parody of the old-fashioned 'whodunit?' crime genre made famous by writers such as Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan-Doyle. Written in the 1960s, at a time when audiences were becoming tired of the formulaic mystery plot in which a genius detective invariably wraps up the murder mystery neatly and effortlessly, Stoppard satirises the genre while taking an entertaining swipe at the theatre critics of this world at the same time.
Two critics, Moon (Lynden Jones) and Birdboot (Peter Talmacs), are settling in to watch a murder-mystery play. Moon is a second-string critic standing in for his missing superior, Higgs, and anxious to impress his readers with ridiculously florid language and gratuitous references to great literature throughout history, while Birdboot is a womanising cad, using his position of influence to entice pretty actresses into torrid love affairs.
As the play-within-the-play unfolds, all the old tropes are wheeled out and satirised: the double murder; beautiful young English Roses who play tennis, shuffle cards and bat their eyelashes; the plucky Inspector Hound (Chris Francis) determined to get his man; the isolated Country Manor, and hardworking maidservant Mrs Drudge (a personal favourite in this show, played hilariously by Sandy Velini) who unwittingly overhear innumerable death threats. The cast delivered strong, highly enjoyable performances with great comic timing and plenty of over-the-top, hammy posturing.
Through a series of accidents, both Moon and Birdboot find themselves drawn into the play's performance, and the lines between observer and actor are further blurred when two of the actors take the place of the critics, sneering loudly at their lacklustre turn onstage.
Shots are fired, kisses are stolen, true identities are revealed, and inflated egos pronounce ridiculous verdicts on the merits of the production. It's all very good fun, but as light as spun sugar in terms of deeper meaning or social commentary. If you're in the mood for a light-hearted romp, this may be just the ticket, but while I found myself laughing throughout the performance I left knowing I hadn't been changed or moved in any great way. Much like skipping your steak dinner and going straight to the souffle dessert, it's fun to do now and then, but you wouldn't want to make it your regular diet.
new theatre presents
THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND
by Tom Stoppard
Venue: new theatre | 542 King Street Newtown
Dates: 5 June – 5 July 2008
Times: Thursday – Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday @ 5pm
Tickets: $27 / $22 / $10 preview Wednesday 4 June
Bookings: 1300 306 776 / www.mca-tix.com