Illustration courtesy of Zoe Jorro.
If you enjoy perplexing Russian doll scenarios, The Real Inspector Hound might be just the play for you. If you really enjoy them, go see the play as a reviewer.
The Edinburgh University Theatre Company’s production follows theatre critics Moon and Birdfoot as they attend a performance of a whodunnit set in a remote country house and made only the more inaccessible by the frequent banks of fog surrounding it. Birdfoot loiters amongst the real audience in the lobby before the performance. Attendant genuine theatre critics are bound to squirm in their seats. The onstage critics mix their metaphors, employ superfluous clauses, and utilise inaccurate references (name-dropping and using French and Latin) at every given opportunity when making their pronouncements. The performances are all enthusiastic and engaging but the critics making it loudly through the show without being shushed by fellow theatre goers grates. This issue was side-stepped in Stoppard’s play as written with microphones, a solution that may have worked for the Bedlam production as the actors’ passionate delivery paired with thick upper-class accents rendered the occasional word indistinguishable.
Every actor entertains with only a couple of garbled lines throughout, (all of which were recovered from quickly) but perhaps the performer who garnered the most laughs was Leyla Doany, with contributions ranging from physical comedy to impersonations and whose part was expanded with some knowing stage directions such as physically placing the character between the man who swears he will ‘kill anyone who comes between us’ and his lover. Casting Megan Burt as Magnus allowed the possibility of an extra suspect, something less probable in productions keeping to the traditionally-cast male actor and perfectly evening out the male to female ratio amongst the performers. Unobtrusive modernisations are also made to the 1968 play through the use of props – photographs in place of view-finder slides and a visual gag with some McCoy’s crisps.