THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND
“Don’t be a madman, give yourself up.”
That’s the announcement made on radio by the Policemen in search of the madman, led by Inspector Hound.
That is Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound for you. I missed it when this Quaff Theatre’s second production premiered in August, on account of shows getting sold out. So when I came to know that it is going to play at Prithvi, we a good lot of 12 people booked the tickets in advance and many more joined us on the day of the show. It was a get-together of sorts.
The Real Inspector Hound is a delightful comedy that twists and turns it’s way around all the conventional murder mystery. The typical “whodunit”. Apparently this was Top Stoppard’s take on Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, especially on Mousetrap.
It is a short, one-act play which follows two theatre critics named Moon and Birdboot (played by Ali Fazal and Suhaas Ahuja) watching a ludicrous setup of a country house murder mystery involving a unidentified and undiscovered corpse lying in the middle of the room invisible to the occupants (but visible to the audience), mysterious phone calls and suspicious strangers. As they are watching the play, by chance, they become involved in the action causing a series of events that parallel the play they are watching. What follows is about 80 minutes of madhouse events on the stage. A play within play! The characters getting tangled in each other’s roles leading to most ridiculous situations.
It was fun to watch all these “mad” people in this madhouse comedy. The typical set of characters in a typical murder mystery. A servant, a rich mistress whose husband has mysteriously vanished, her friend, a relative who is in love with the mistress and a stranger with whom the mistress and the friend both are enamoured by and a murder and a madman on the prowl and a police inspector on his chase!
I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching Ratnabali Bhattacharjee playing Mrs. Drudge, the servant of the manor. She was most natural and spontaneous in her character. I can undoubtedly say, my most favourite character in the ensemble.
Prerna Chawla and Hazel Keech as Felicity and Cynthia were fun to watch. But some of their mannerisms were quite repetitive so after first few times they lose the fun quotient and become quite ridiculous actions. Especially, given the fact that a whole lot of action is repeated with entry of Birdboot in the play in the role of Simon.
Gulshan Devaiah in his dravidi accent as Magnus was entertaining. However, there was some eating of words and slurring of sentences; well, that happened with other characters too. But, Gulshan, now with fame of Dum Maro Dum, Shaitan and That Girl in Yellow Boots attracts more attention and such hitches call for a special mention.
Neil Bhoopalam as Simon was absolutely lovable. It was fun to watch how his initial sceptical demeanour transforms into a confident guest of honour and how he entertains the mistress and her friend at the same time! His encounters with Magnus were hilarious. Sad that his role was quite short.
Then there was Vivek Gomber who played Inspector Hound. His accent kept varying throughout his presence on the stage. However, he was as mysterious as he was supposed to be.
And, the two critics, without whom this whole madhouse was not possible. I loved Suhaas Ahuja as Birdboot. His interest in Felicity in spite of being a “respectable married man”, love at first sight with Cynthia, his conversation with his wife on the phone and then getting trapped in the play, it was so much fun to watch him going through all those transformations. And his timing while he is recording his comments on the play was just perfect. As much I loved Birdboot, I did not enjoy Ali Fazal as Moon.
As I mentioned earlier, each character brought in his/her own accent which was quite annoying. Either they should have decided not to go with a foreign accent or to make sure that all of them had a similar accent. There were quite a few times of overlapping of dialogue deliveries. Barring these few glitches it was an entertaining performance. For some reason the pace of the play was set very slow. But it had it’s moments where it tickled the audience.
It was funny to watch how Mrs. Drudge oblivious to the dead body in the middle of the room is going about her work and actually covers it with a sofa. And how Birdboot gets irritated with the incessantly ringing phone (which according to Inspector Hound was disconnected) and finally answers the phone to know that his wife is on the other side of the line. As also the chaos after the dead body being discovered; it was really funny. And I loved the climax scene, it is the most ridiculous end that one can expect from such mysteries. Now you know where does Ekta Kapoor gets her ideas for her soap operas from!
I must say that the technical team played a great role in bringing credibility to this ludicrously ridiculous play in the play. Aashrita Kamath’s set was fantastic. It was minimalistic but yet gave the feel of two different settings. I would say the technical side was more powerful that the performance.
Nevertheless, it was an entertaining evening. If not for anything else, one should watch it for Tom Stoppard’s brilliant digs at Agatha Christie and the theatre critics and the theatre itself. It is full value for money.