The Real Inspector Hound/The Critic, Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Wednesday 14 July 2010
This pairing of one-act plays about the vicarious participation of critics in the theatre business was last seen on the vast Olivier stage 25 years ago; it works much better in the compact Minerva, though Jonathan Church and Sean Foley's joint production seems over-anxious to be funny.
One consequence of this is that Foley, for instance, who plays a wheelchair-bound major in Stoppard's country-house thriller spoof, and a poodle-wigged ninny, Sir Fretful Plagiary, in the Sheridan fracas, is sometimes registering a reaction before he's received the prompt for it.
But he does, at least, make a sly connection between the plays that has not been made before: "trim-buttocked" is a gloating epithet dispensed by the critics in The Real Inspector Hound; Foley can be so described when Sir Fretful's cloak slips beneath waist level in The Critic's patriotic pageant.
Mooning in Chichester: whatever next? Both plays satirise theatrical mannerisms of the day in a "play-within-a-play". Mr Puff's "catastrophe" is a fantasy staging of the Spanish Armada, with designer Ruari Murchison creating a mini-fleet of galleons sailing up the Thames, Britannia ruling the waves in a steel helmet and one poor critic, Derek Griffiths's supercilious Sneer, suspended on top of the world while the scenery collapses.
The critics are drawn into action more subtly in the Stoppard, Nicholas Le Prevost's smoothie-chops Birdboot picking up a telephone on the set ("I told you never to ring me at work") and Richard McCabe's chaotically untidy, second-string Moon, assuming a leading role soon afterwards.
Le Prevost doubles in the Sheridan as Dangle, reading news of an imminent coalition, and the last government's failures, before declaring an interest only in theatrical politics. McCabe's critic with an arthritic walk unbends magnificently as the irrepressible Puff, listing his varieties of "puff" like an embryonic, much wittier, Max Clifford.
The Stoppard spoof is ferociously well done by Joe Dixon, Sophie Bould and Hermione Gulliford, with Una Stubbs delightful in both plays, first as Mrs Drudge then as a bird-brained Mrs Dangle in Sheridan's satirical attack on a long-forgotten, ineffective foreign policy.
To 28 August (01243 781312)
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Marijuana use by teenagers does not result in a lower IQ or worse exam results, study finds
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
MOBO Awards 2014: Jess Glynne hits back at 'ridiculous' criticism of nominated white artists
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth fired in double elimination
MOBO Awards 2014: Sam Smith sweeps the board with four gongs
The Apprentice, episode 3 - review: Lord Sugar hacks away at the deadwood with double elimination
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters