A double-bill with a difference

The Real Inspector Hound at The Stables Theatre
The Real Inspector Hound at The Stables Theatre

Review: The Real Inspector Hound and Red Peppers, The Stables Theatre, July 6 to 14.

TWO very different offerings were on the bill at The Stables Theatre last week, in a double bill of one-act plays, directed by Tony Holtham.

The second piece, Red Peppers, was a Noël Coward nostalgia trip to the days of variety theatre.

In that era, before the endless servings of “how the show was made” to which we have become grimly accustomed on the small screen, it was a novelty to take a trip back stage to a second-rate theatre, peeking behind the glitz and glamour to its seedy, tension-ridden intestines.

This was a show which required singers and dancers to bring it fully to life. We have actors - so was this piece the best choice? However, the music was a chance for some of us proudly to show our age and sing along with the Red Peppers and the Debonairs - with some nice comic touches.

In between, Fiona Batey and Bill Allender as the eponymous leading couple harped and sniped at each other in sandpaperish style, then touchingly closed ranks when confronted by their joint enemies, musician Bert (Rick Baker) and the manager (Joe Sykes).

The Real Inspector Hound is a Tom Stoppard’s version of an Escher picture. On one side are the critics, seedy lecher Birdboot (Bill Allender) and fantasist Moon (Philip Blurton) who is floundering in a morass of disappointed ambition.

Their disjointed interactions were delivered with accomplished aplomb, whilst the whodunnit they are being paid to critique is failing to grasp their attention: this was played out before us in a gorgeously wooden yet overblown fashion. Katy Worobec (Mrs Drudge the help) was a hoot, delivering the most ridiculous stage directions supposedly over the telephone, in perfect dead-pan. Alastair Devaux as Simon Gascoyne interloped furtively throughout; dramatic poses from Charlotte Eastes as Felicity and Jackie Eichler as Cynthia ensured that we were in no doubt as to the quality of play. Cynthia’s card-play was spot on - the tea-service was hilariously stilted - and as for Magnus’ (Joe Sykes) wheelchair entrance - a pleasure with which the health and safety committee had nothing to do!

Thanks to the sound technicians (Andy Bissenden and Tom Brown), the sound effects were excellent - a farce cannot be funny without perfect timing of bells, radios, and sounds of wheelchairs descending the stairs.

Margaret Blurton