The Real Inspector Hound and Metafiction

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THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND
Dramatic criticism of the play by Tom Stoppard | |
| | |In The Real Inspector Hound Stoppard makes fun of the critical jargon used by reviewers; when they make quasi-official | |pronouncements, they are pompous and silly. Of course the satire is especially effective when it is partly self-satire, coming | |from a former theater critic who knows these pretensions from the inside. | |KENNETH J. RECKFORD, Aristophanes' Old-And-New Comedy | |In the twentieth century Tom Stoppard has gone further than most in exploring the comic potential of theatre-within-theatre. The | |Real Inspector Hound starts out sanely enough with two theatre critics, Moon and Birdboot, watching and commenting upon a corny | |country-house mystery, the cliché-sodden whodunnit parodying its genre just as the critics' cliché-sodden commentary parodies its| |genre. Yet at an early stage the theatrical levels begin to blur, as Moon claims to have seen Birdboot out on the town with | |Felicity, one of the fictional females. Midway through--when nobody else is onstage--Birdboot ventures to answer the persistently| |ringing stage-phone only to find it is his real wife who is speaking (possibly suspecting his fictive flirtations). Once | |"onstage," he gets caught up in an embarrassing barney with Felicity that turns into an almost verbatim reproduction of the | |clichés from an earlier (fictive) confrontation scene between Felicity and Simon Gascoyne. Birdboot has in a sense "become" | |Simon, adopting his dramatic role. Not surprisingly Birdboot is soon to bite the metatheatrical dust, and Moon, rushing onstage | |to the body of his fellow critic, finds himself playing the part of Inspector Hound--but not the real one, for it is | |wheel-chaired Magnus, alias long-lost lover Albert, alias third-string stand-in theatre critic Puckeridge, who is the real | |Inspector Hound. | |R.D.V. GLASGOW, Madness, Masks, and Laughter | |It all fits together with a sort of demented clockwork precision. | |JOHN RUSSELL TAYLOR, The Second Wave | |Christie's Mousetrap is formulaic. Hound mocks the formula. The play starts with a stage empty of actors except for the | |corpse.... It is not a whodunit--it is about whodunits and also about the petty jealousies of the second strings, the | |understudies, the seconds in command and their desire to do away with those who block their way. They watch each other as we | |watch them.... The barriers between theatre and stage audience dissolve and the distinction between the real and the fictional | |disappears. | |TERRY HODGSON, The Plays of Tom Stoppard | |[The Real Inspector Hound is] ... the least satisfactory of all Stoppard's plays ... the theatrical whodunit tends to be | |transparently banal in the first place, so that to parody its emptiness simply restates the obvious ... all Stoppard's burlesque | |does is to underline the banalities in a schoolboy manner. | |ANTHONY JENKINS, The Plays of Tom Stoppard...
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