Real Inspector Hound / Black Comedy

The first act features Tom Stoppard's 1960's comedy 'The Real Inspector Hound". The story concerns two critics who are siting in the audience of a whodunit thriller. 'Moon', who resents being a second string critic and wishes his superior dead discuses both his unhappiness and the play with 'Birdboot'. Birdboot on the other hand is more interested in one of the female characters on stage and his box of chocolates than he is in listening to Moon's bitter ramblings. During the interval the phone on the stage rings and 'Birdboot' decides to answer it, which sets off an unexpected chain of events as he finds himself as one of the characters!

This is a very funny spoof of a whodunit with a lot of deliberate exaggeration from the cast that works wonderfully, particularly from Nichola McAuliffe who plays 'Mrs Drudge', the creepy housekeeper who has a facial expression and body language that is hilariously funny.

The second act features Peter Shaffer's 'Black Comedy', also from the 60's. The play is called a comedy in black, as the stage lighting is in complete opposite to what the actors have to imagine. When the stage is lit the actors are in complete darkness, and when the stage is dark the actors have light.

As soon as the drama starts the whole auditorium and stage is in complete blackness and the play continues for several minutes like this, which I found a bit unnerving I must say! However, this was brilliantly planned, because after a while a 'fuse' blows pitching the characters flat in imaginary darkness, which results in the stage being lit up! Now the actors are hilariously groping around the flat looking for a match or candle, but unable to find one. As the story unfolds we discover that Brindsley Miller, a sculpture, is expecting a visit from a 'deaf' German millionaire who wishes to look at his work. Magnus, his finance's father is also due to arrive, whom Brindsley will be meeting for the first time. Since his own furniture is rather shabby, Brindsley and his fiancée have borrowed, without permission, their neighbours furniture for a few hours so as to impress Magnus. However, his camp neighbour Harold, comes home unexpectedly and so Brindsley has to find a way of placing the furniture back without being discovered and he has to do all this in the dark! This is further complicated by the fact that his guests, including the unexpectedly returned "Harold" are using the furniture. The story becomes more farcical as further guests and other unforeseen visitors arrive, including his 'other' girlfriend!

The same talented cast brilliantly performs both plays. David Tennant, who plays the depressed critic in the first act, puts in an exhausting performance in the second one as Brindsley Miller. Desmond Barrit is wonderful playing both the carefree critic Birdboot and the camp neighbour, Harold. The rest of the cast is just as convincing with perfect comic timing, Anna Chancellor, Sara Crowe, Nicholas Rowe, Gary Waldhorn, Geoffrey Freshwater and the superb Nichola McAuliffe.

This double bill has received good notices from the popular press. JANE EDWARDES from TIME OUT says, "Director Greg Doran has put together a superb cast". PETER HEPPLE of THE STAGE says "It is a long time since the West End saw such an entertaining double bill as this". NICHOLAS de JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says "Farcical fun in the dark and a lethal spoof" and JOHN PETER of THE SUNDAY TIMES says "These are two of the funniest and most brilliant short plays in the language, and combining them in a double bill is a stroke of genius".

I agree with John Peter, it is an ingenious idea to have these two comedies together and I urge you not to miss them. It is two and half-hours of sparkling fun.

(Darren Dalglish)

Originally published on

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