The Real Inspector Hound is the ADC late show this weekSimon Lock

Building on Tristram Shandy’s meta-theatricality last week, two critics reviewing the play-within-a-play are quickly drawn into its events, unable to escape the lure of an intriguing whodunnit.

Both of the critics – who have some wonderful lines about the art of theatre criticism, with which I personally sympathised – were wonderful, although the pretentious and strange, verging on psychopathic, Moon (William Ashford) somewhat outshone Clara Strandhoj’s Birdboot. Moreover, there were some problematic and downright confusing moments caused by the gender-switching of Birdboot’s character.

The characters of the play-within-the-play were appropriately overacted, although this sometimes verged into the territory of annoyance. Mrs Drudge (Lucy Gledhill-Flynn) was very over the top, yet this worked the majority of the time; Millie Foy’s Magnus, however, felt stilted and inappropriate on occasion. The eponymous Inspector Hound (Ben Martineau) was slightly odd; I can see what he was trying to do but it felt superfluous much of the time.

However, the star of the show was undoubtedly Stoppard’s script. I’ve never seen Stoppard performed before, but even this short, one-act play is evidence enough of why he’s been knighted and won troves of awards. At the precise moment that the play seemed to slow and get repetitive, there was an abrupt turnaround and it descended into hilarious, meta-theatrical absurdity. William Ashford and Ronald Prokes, the co-directors, should be proud of this production, and the mere fact that they’ve brought such a wonderful play to life on the ADC stage. It did feel slightly squashed at times with almost no set, although these are understandable limitations of a late show. The addition of live music was fun at first and incredibly effective at times, but the sound sometimes overwhelmed the actors’ dialogue, detracting from the performance rather than adding to it. The staging was very clever, though, breaking the fourth wall (literally, as well as metaphorically) on multiple occasions and making very good use of the limited space. The lighting design also deserves a mention: it was subtle yet evocative and really added something to the performance.

This is a brilliant ADC late show. A slot that can often vary in quality, this is a polished piece of drama from one of the finest contemporary playwrights. If you’re prepared to be amused, bemused and confused simultaneously, then this is well worth the trip.

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