The Real Inspector Hound

Wed 28th – Sat 31st October 2015

reviews

Tom Whittaker

at 09:24 on 29th Oct 2015

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Armed with a cast of characters almost as surreal as some people one may bump into on the way through Cambridge to the ADC’s late showing, as well as a Stoppard script notable for its irritating (from my point of view, at least) pre-emptive strike against critical jargon, ‘The Real Inspector Hound’ often comes across as a kooky blend of ‘Groundhog Day’ and ‘Cluedo’ – and yes, that is as potentially baffling as it sounds.

Fortunately, this production stays on the right side of bemusing, a testament to the skills of co-directors William Ashford and Ronald Prokes. Obviously, it is intensely silly; Fergus Powell as the Radio pops up repeatedly to lend structure and comic relief to an otherwise slow start, and the well-pitched and fittingly used live music help to parody typical murder mysteries.

Full use is made of the space as the play gathers steam, with Ben Martineau’s brilliant Inspector Hound appearing out of nowhere and actors fleeing into the audience in a neatly self-aware consideration of the Fourth Wall. Lighting and set design are thoughtful and minimal, helping to counter-balance what could otherwise be an overpowering piece of entertainment.

Pacing is another important element in ensuring that the play doesn’t run away with itself and become a case of sensory overload, and it’s masterfully managed here. Just as the audience feels that the performance is clattering (or, in Magnus’s case, wheeling itself) along too fast to track, the stage suddenly clears and the show gives us a chance to catch up with some wonderfully delivered back and forth between the two in-show reviewers, Moon and Birdboot, with William Ashford’s Moon proving one of the hilarious highlights of the night.

As the body count mounts and Isla Iago excels as spurned lover Felicity, these critics then become integral to the story as they are sucked into the country house, and hence into the mystery itself. By this point, though, I scarcely minded who actually committed the murder (and I shan’t spoil it for you), having been won over by the ineffable charm and humour that this production exudes.

I also barely minded the few flaws, though flaws they were: the musicians having a mid-scene chat and laugh behind the actors was distracting on one occasion; despite being otherwise superb, Lucy Gledhill-Flynn’s Mrs Drudge had such a thick accent that the odd word was lost in over-hasty transmission to the audience; and the aforementioned sluggish opening was not done any favours by a frequently too-aloof Jerome Burelbach as Simon Gascoyne.

Who really committed the murder, then, and what did I just witness, exactly? Well - in the words of my fellow reviewer, Moon - I think we are entitled to ask. It is the answer which is so fantastically - mesmerisingly - elusive.

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Joanna Taylor

at 09:59 on 29th Oct 2015

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The ADC’s production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound is surreal, subversive and extremely entertaining. The most hilarious and bizarre comedy I have seen at Cambridge, it is also a genuinely compelling murder mystery and a satirical attack on kitschy reviewing.

The play opens with two theatrical critics, Moon and Birdboot, whose struggles with professional jealousy and extra-marital affairs punctuate and intermingle with the main ‘action’ of the play. Their satirical digs were perfectly timed and delivered; their self-absorption and hyperbolic language making for clever and self-conscious comedy. Next - a madman has escaped and believed to be in Lady Muldoon’s Mansion - and the typical, Cludo-esque characters of murder mystery endeavour to catch the culprit. Outlandish, eclectic and a little unsettling, the first (and only) act saw audience members burst into almost spontaneous laughter as the cast broke down each convention and pretension of theatre: quite literally, when it came to the implicit ‘fourth wall’.

The writing of The Real Inspector Hound is exceedingly clever - credit to Stoppard for continuing to unnerve and delight for almost half a century - but it is a play that must be carried by its characters and their comic ability. On this, the ADC cast certainly delivered. Beginning with Mrs Drudge, performed by the outstanding Lucy Gledhill-Flynn, whose abilities as a doddery old Cockney woman were somewhat startling, the over-theatrical acting called on by the satire of the script was accomplished with relish. Jerome Burelbach, playing Simon Gascoyne, was another natural comedian and brilliant actor: his loaded glances at the audience doubling the random peels of laughter as we attempted to orientate ourselves in this absurdist paradigm. Millie Foy, too, deserves recognition for making the transition between a young, female Cambridge student and an aged, crippled man from Canada seem entirely effortless.

Generally, the acting was fantastic, and made for a stylish and witty performance which never resorted to slap-stick or farce, but remained hysterically surrealist. Isla Iago as the sensuous yet frenzied Felicity, and William Ashford as the obsessive and overwrought Moon, stood out for the passion and precision of their portrayals, and somewhat ‘stole the show’. Every actor kept in character, which is no mean feat when almost every scene excited hilarity - not just the first, but also the second time round.

A wealth of directing and producing appears to have gone into The Real Inspector Hound with seventeen students billed as contributing (although this does include the unique role of ‘Waistcoat Provider’) and hats off to each one of them (fez or other). A live wind and string band also provided the backdrop to the Muldoon Mansion, and contributed authentic sound effects and some rather lovely jazz.

I don’t feel I have anything especially intelligent to say about The Real Inspector Hound, but I suspect that’s rather the point. Its encompassing absurdity and intimacy with its audience defies a critic to write up the types of vacuous and pseudo-intellectual comments it has been ruthlessly satirising, and its surreal humour is something to be experienced for yourself. However, I can say that the production is sophisticated and extremely engaging: rather than questioning 'whodunnit?', you will continually ask yourself 'what on earth is going on and why can’t I stop laughing?'. I massively recommend a late-night trip to the ADC to witness this meta-theatrical intermingling of comedy and murder mystery; it is not very often that vengeful homicide is genuinely hilarious.

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