The Playhouse, 31 Albany Street, Dunedin North, Dunedin

24/11/2022 - 03/12/2022

Production Details

Tom Stoppard - Playwright
Brent Caldwell - Director

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Dunedin Repertory Society’s final homage to this year’s 70th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is flattery of the highest order.

The Real Inspector Houndwritten by Tom Stoppard, is a parody of the classic whodunnit. It was first performed in 1968 in London, creating a sensation when it opened next door to Christie’s long running The Mousetrap. The Mousetrap producers were upset that The Real Inspector Hound revealed, in a way, the well-guarded secret twist to their play – but they couldn’t object publicly without drawing attention to the nature of the twist.

The Playhouse Theatre’s staging of The Real Inspector Hound comes hot on the heels of its sell-out season of The Mousetrap in May.

The Real Inspector Hound is absurdist in style, so farce, hilarity and just plain ridiculousness are guaranteed. It is a play-within-a-play: the main characters, Moon and Birdboot, are theatre critics watching a new detective play – itself a parody of conventional stage thrillers. The plot consists of both the experience of the critics and the narrative arc of the play they are reviewing. The private lives of the critics become inextricably mixed with those of the play’s characters, until some characters end up dead and the real Inspector Hound proves to be … well, that would be telling!

The play opens on Thursday 24 November and runs till Saturday 3 December at the Playhouse Theatre. Performances are at 7.00pm from 24 to 26 November and 30 November to 3 December, and at 2.00pm on Sunday 27 November.

Tickets are available for purchase online at, and there will be limited door sales one hour before each performance.

Standard tickets are $25, and concessions $20. Accessible entry is available – please arrange this by calling 03 477 6444 or message the Playhouse Theatre Facebook page.


Kimberley Buchan - Moon

Dylan Shield - Birdboot

Ellie Swann - Mrs Drudge

Josh Black - Simon Gascoyne

Cait Gordon - Felicity Cunningham

Rosie Collier - Lady Cynthia Muldoon

Chris Cook - Major Magnus Muldoon

Chris McCombe -  Inspector Hound


Director: Brent Caldwell

Producer: Shannon Colbert

Stage Manager: Becky Hodson

Lighting: Damon Lillis

Sound:Qrowe Brittenden

Wardrobe: Christine Colbert & Shannon Colbert

Photography: Matilda  Macandrew

Painters:Tim Caldwell & Daniel McClymont

Set Design:Dylan Shield, Anna Denys, Cait Gordon, Rosie Collier, Becky Hodson, & Meko Ng

Comedy , Theatre ,

A rattling good evening out ...

Review by Terry MacTavish 28th Nov 2022

As anticipated, I feel as foolishly conspicuous producing my critic’s notebook for this production of The Real Inspector Hound as I did last time I reviewed it, twelve years ago. For there, in reserved seats betwixt stage and auditorium, sit two archetypal theatre critics, lecherous Birdboot and envious Moon, scoffing chocolates and pretentiously talking shop, while pursuing secret fantasies.

Brilliant playwright (and sometime critic himself) Tom Stoppard has wickedly parodied every reviewer’s cliché in their asides throughout the play-within-the-play, as they scribble ludicrous notes for their reviews. Director Brent Caldwell has cast wisely, with two experienced actors absolutely nailing Birdboot and Moon. From start to gory finish, their performances are a delight.

Dylan Shield as Birdboot is pompous but lascivious, employing his reviews to ingratiate himself with attractive actresses. With She Said opening in cinemas this very week, exposing the sexual predation of Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in the movie business, it might be hard to find Birdboot’s sleaziness merely funny.

But Shield shrewdly creates a Birdboot who comes across as more of a hapless wannabe seducer, hypocritically intent on maintaining the reputation he imagines he has, as a devoted family man of scrupulous integrity, inclined to take his actresses out to lunch rather than to a hotel room for late-night ‘auditions’. He is very funny indeed, especially when his fantasy monologue forms a crazy duet with Moon’s.

Moon has interestingly here been cast as female, and Kimberley Buchan, in elegant 50s evening dress, is entirely credible as a neurotic reviewer who resents being called in only when the number one critic, Higgs, is unavailable. Buchan’s impassioned diatribe, urging the violent revolt of all second-fiddles – understudies, deputies and bridesmaids – is a gem, made even funnier when Moon suddenly realises that just as she fantasizes about the death of Higgs, her own replacement reviewer, Puckeridge, must yearn to kill her off.

Along with our critics, we are now spectators at a typical murder mystery, very similar to The Mousetrap, with stereotypical eccentric characters trapped in an isolated manor house, and a cunningly disguised, escaped madman picking off victims. Every absurdity of the genre is hammed up by the actors, fun in itself, but the best trick of all, is that during the interval Moon, irritated by the phone ringing onstage, actually strides up to answer it, only to find that she and Birdboot are drawn hilariously into the action. I bet we all secretly yearn for that!

Earlier this year, the 70th since Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap opened, the Playhouse won rights to mount a sell-out season. I myself played the unpleasant murder victim, sadly not included in the cast of The Real Inspector Hound, but many of my ex-fellow actors are onstage now, gleefully sending up their original characters, an in-joke that seems perfectly appropriate.

Versatile Chris Cook, The Mousetrap’s brisk detective inspector, is here wheelchair-bound, wrapped in layers of rugs and aliases, firstly as Major Magnus Muldoon, with amusingly preposterous accent, unlikely Canadian Mountie uniform, and fake beard barely concealing a real beard.

Rosie Collier, ‘mannish’ in Mousetrap, is stunning as Lady Cynthia Muldoon, commanding the stage in shimmering blue satin and glittering diamonds, and as Birdboot droolingly notes, actually opening her mouth in her wildly passionate stage embraces.

As her foil, the naïve ingenue Felicity, cute Cait Gordon is pert, yet surprisingly vindictive as she adds to the chorus of those determined to murder philandering Simon Gascoyne.  Adhering again to stage tradition, she is ridiculously costumed in a very brief tennis dress, as intended charming the critics who note ‘firm buttocks’.

Smooth Simon Gascoyne himself is smoothly played with smoothly slicked-back hair by Josh Black, while Chris McCombe makes the most of his dramatic entry on ‘swamp-shoes’ as Inspector Hound, sporting a deerstalker hat a` la Sherlock Holmes.

The most delightful addition to The Mousetrap characters is another regular theatrical trope, the comical housekeeper. Charmingly diminutive Ellie Swann is perfectly cast as Mrs Drudge, overhearing every reckless threat to kill, and helpfully providing all the enchantingly clumsy exposition, starting with the famous opening line as she answers the telephone: ‘The drawing room of Lady Muldoon’s country residence, one morning in early spring’.

The undeniably adequate set has been created by cast and crew with a similar sense of humour, redolent of every am-dram drawing-room comedy, with pastel walls adorned with those most hackneyed reproductions, Bubbles and The Blue Boy, and central French windows revealing a summer scene, but with patches of the plot-required fog optimistically added. Protruding from under the settee, which faces the audience centre stage, is a dead body, casually ignored by the cast.

Damon Lillis is responsible for the efficient lighting, with the simple but elegant device of spotlighting Birdboot and Moon during the supposed intervals, and Qrowe Brittenden for the sound, including the radio that astonishingly, whenever turned on, happens to be interrupting its broadcast with a police message.

Though The Real Inspector Hound was released in 1968, I first caught it in 1985, produced by British National Theatre’s Ian McKellen/Edward Petherbridge Group, with the producers starring, and Stoppard himself brought in to assist. As my companion for this show is actor Louise Petherbridge, in her London days married to Edward, I learn more about that production, including to my delight the story of their Mrs Drudge. She was played by Selina Cadell, now best known as the neck-brace wearing, love-smitten pharmacist in Doc Martin. Stoppard complained in rehearsal that Cadell was stretching her coffee-serving scene to implausible lengths, and was not won over until she was totally vindicated by the uproarious audience reaction.

Having often been forced to play two-dimensional characters in weekly rep throughout England, Louise revels in this as the ultimate revenge play for frivolous actors everywhere, finally permitted, nay encouraged, to send up their silliest roles. Tennis, anyone? It is certainly a pleasure to share with this spirited cast such delicious mockery of our beloved theatre conventions. Stoppard particularly instructed his actors to ‘have fun’ in this parody, and director Caldwell shows complete understanding of the playwright’s intentions.

I, however, am still cringing over recognising in the mouths of the ridiculous critics some of my own very favourite phrases, surely erudite, and if I may boldly say (and I think I may) certainly totally original..! Oh yes, and this has been a rattling good evening out.



John Smythe November 28th, 2022

A rattling good review - I was held! Seriously, this is the most erudite account of The Real Inspector Hound I have ever read. Having participated in 20-odd annual play readings of it to first year English students at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington (playing Birdboot to Harry Rickett's Moon), I know the play well. Thanks to Ms MacTavish, I now feel I have seen this clearly exemplary production in all its satirical glory. Thank you!

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