The Real Inspector Hound

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

29/11/2010 - 29/11/2010

Production Details

Written by Tom Stoppard


The obsessions, jealousies and thwarted desires that drive a pot-boiler whodunit on stage also permeate the lives of the critics reviewing it. Reality, fantasy, life and death curdle with comical flair in the cauldron of Stoppard’s creative imagination.

It was Stoppard’s experiences as a theatre critic in Bristol that inspired him to write this metaphysically mangled parody of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.

What better way, then, for Wellington’s critics to show their appreciation to the Wellington theatre community, for another splendid year of inspiring theatre in the creative capital, than to ‘cross over to the other side’ …


It’s open season on The Critical Mass: anyone who wants to may write a review, to be published on Theatreview – and for once pseudonyms will be allowed.
Just email your review to Michael Wray:

The Real Inspector Hound
by Tom Stoppard
Downstage, Monday 29 November 2010 
7.30pm – general admission – first in best seat.
Bar opens 6.30pm and re-opens after the show 
Running time: 1hr 10min approx.
A koha (to pay for the techie) will be appreciated


Moon ……...………………… Laurie Atkinson

Birdboot …….…………..……... John Smythe

Mrs Drudge ………..….…... Elspeth Sandys

Simon …………………………… Jackson Coe

Felicity ………………........….…… Helen Sims

Cynthia …………………..…..... Lynn Freeman

Magnus ………………….………... Uther Dean 

Inspector Hound …….……...…….. Dan Slevin

Radio announcer ……......... Hewitt Humphrey

With a special guest appearance in a mystery role by Michael Wray

Director ……….……….……… Ewen Coleman

Tech. operator …….……..…... Deb McGuire

Theatre ,

1hr 5 mins

Offered High Amusement

Review by Jennifer Shennan 04th Dec 2010

What an inspired notion to have critics tramp the boards. Dance critics might think about an equivalent offering… mmmm? … maybe not.

Stoppard is a wickedly funny playwright and this rehearsed reading offered high amusement.

Laurie Atkinson as Moon ruminated most wonderfully ponderously. John Smythe as Birdboot was priceless. Lynn Freeman as Cynthia was hilarious, but the standout performer for me was Elspeth Sandys as Mrs Drudge. I forgot she was reading and thought she was the very personification of the maid of the manor.

Dan Slevin aside (he was a stitch), various attempts at Scottish accents lost their way in the fog … several inspectors in need of a tutor. Edith Campbell of Seatoun would help out next time.

Thanks – this was great fun.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Not worthy

Review by A Mateur 02nd Dec 2010

I would dearly like to offer a review of the performance of “The Real Inspector Hound” as presented by The Critical Mass.  Alas, I cannot, since they are not professional actors and as such are not deemed worthy….
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Ewen Coleman December 5th, 2010

And even the director has had a production of non professional actors reviewed on here

Editor December 2nd, 2010

In fact at least six (i.e. a majority) of the cast have performed in productions that were or could have been deemed eligible for review on theatreview.

Dan Slevin December 2nd, 2010

 The Immortals was a professional production which makes a somewhat professional actor...

Editor December 2nd, 2010

In this case the rule is relaxed because they critique professionals and are now prepared to be on the receiving end. So please, A Mateur, feel free ...

Michael Wray December 2nd, 2010

Anyone who's not been keeping up with Theatreview discussions and feels confused by the review above should look at the forum topic "What Gets Reviewed" 

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A resounding Hound of ubiquitous obliquity

Review by Sam Petard 30th Nov 2010

To say we witnessed travesties last night would be to confuse the event with a later Stoppard play. Was this thing – if we can call it that, and I think on balance we can – the real thing?

History has it that The Real Inspector Hound – a mercifully short piece of whimsical nonsense – was written after the longer and intellectually classier Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, but I would say Hound was written first and exhumed from the bottom drawer when R&G elevated young Tom to what would prove to be ‘flavour of the remains of the century’.

At this point I think we could say that Stoppard had learned from the masters of the whodunnit genre only to pervert it in his inimitable way with the shower of wit and theatrical tricks that were destined to become his trademark. In using the creaking conventions of a murder mystery to purvey metaphysical modernity, he has declared himself – Je suis – and echoed Voltaire’s cry, ‘Voila!”

But perhaps all this would have been for nothing had it not been brought alive last night by the astonishing talents of The Critical Mass in a performance which I consider to be one of the summits in the range of rehearsed readings to be staged at Downstage on a final Monday in November 2010.

Had the character opining in the current Circa Two play that “those who can do; those who can’t review” hastened to Downstage on his night off to see this cast of masters and mistresses at work, he might never have been able to utter that line again with conviction (although, to be fair, he was talking about scriptwriting and these were not the talents the critics chose to display last night).

I shan’t single out particular players but rather shall call upon HACKMAN and BATS to award – at the Chapman Kip Theatre Awards this Friday – the CIRCA THEATRE Award for Best Comeback of the Year to The Critical Mass, for the resounding ubiquitous obliquity of their The Real Inspector Hound.


Welly Watch November 30th, 2010

I was frankly dismayed at all that corpsing.

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Alas for the heroes of 69

Review by Rachel Underwood 30th Nov 2010

Tom Stoppard’s anarchic play purports to be a murder melodrama but really it’s about the pretensions and personal preoccupations of critics – two of them, the one (read by Laurie Atkinson), wittering on about philosophical fancies while brooding on professional rivalries, the other (John Smythe), trotting out the tired clichés of the trade, while eyeing up the female lead despite protestations about wife Myrtle being the enduring love of his life. Is this perfect casting?

Elspeth Sandys drudges about as the deceptively dim-witted help, while Lynn Freeman as Lady Muldoon bestows affection freely on the men who turn up out of the fog but hasn’t a clue that her ‘cousin’ is her long lost beloved.

Helen Sims as Felicity delivers her lines with true venom.

Inspector Hound no.1 (Dan Slevin) brings authority and an amazing accent but he’s a fake with Uther Dean, as Magnus, blowing his cover for the denouement.

Critical detachment is cast aside by the professionals for getting right into the action and – as is only fitting – getting shot for their pains. All honour to the corpse (Michael Wray) on stage for the duration, who twitches reassuringly at the gunshot.

We understand no funding was available from CNZ for the reading – one of their wiser decisions?

[Editor: for those wondering about the review’s title, Inspector Hound first played at Downstage Theatre in April 1969. The “heroes” were Peter Gwynne, Michael Woolf, Pat Evison, Ken Blackburn, Cecily Polson, Raeburn Hirsch, Harry Lavington and David Williams.]


Paul McLaughlin November 30th, 2010

 I found Michael Wray's performance a bit stiff...

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