The Real Insp. Hound, dir Sarah Markiewicz1 – 5 November, Moser: A classic English country housemurder mystery. Two boredtheatre critics who alternatebetween pretentiousness and pragmatism,artistic originality and tired clichés.In The Real Inspector Hound,Stoppard makes these two scenarioscollide in a surreal one-act farce thatmanages to send both of them up savagely.The play looks back ironically to thepopular whodunits of the inter-waryears. A rather uninspired specimen ofthe genre is being put on, in which amildly eccentric upper class family enduretheir maid’s foibles and wonderwho the murderer in their midst is.Reviewing it are Moon, given to posturingand flights of artistic fancy, andthe more urbane Birdboot, not averseto swapping special favours from attractiveactresses for a complimentarynotice. After answering a telephoneleft ringing on stage they suddenly findthemselves involved in the drama.Stoppard’s snappy writing and generalzaniness are a gift to any director,but what marks Markiewicz’s productionout is unfailing energy and pace.Characterisation, both physical andverbal, is consistently good, with EdwardDonati and Joanna Keith carryingoff their sharply delineated comicroles with aplomb. Michael Evans andSimon Kantor’s portrayals of the criticsMoon and Birdboot are vigorous andcapture the interplay between the twopersonalities well. Charmaine Lazenby’sperformance as Inspector Houndis slightly less assured, the role of acantankerous upper class gent requiringa measure of gusto she does notquite provide, and though Markiewiczoffers convincing reasons for her decisionto cross-cast, its success in practiceis doubtful. That said, the cast workwell as an ensemble and, by confidentlyfreezing the action where necessaryand using simple spot-lighting effects,effectively maintain the initial dividebetween performers and critics.Attention to costumes and props isinvaluable in maintaining the almostexaggeratedly period feel of the production,and the set achieves a fine balancebetween clutter and excessive minimalism.It is the obvious enthusiasmand commitment of the cast, though,which mark this production out. Actualevents on stage may often perplex:at one point Moon asks “does this playknow where it’s going?” Whatever theanswer, it is clear that Markiewicz andher team are in control.ARCHIVE: 3rd week MT 2005