Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound and Sheridan's The Critic (Double Bill at Chichester Festival Theatre)

When I was seventeen I was almost in a production of The Real Inspector Hound, we rehearsed it and had a good time and it was the first play I'd been in since I was about five, but in the end it was cancelled because the school decided to go with another play and a less giggly bunch of actors. I have to admit that we were shite, me especially as I'd never kissed anyone and my character had to make out with two of my teenage friends in the play so I was a bit inhibited when those scenes came along. When I sat watching Chichester's current production and watched actors Joe Dixon and then Nicholas le Prevost make out with the character I had almost played I thought; now there's a couple of people I wouldn't have a problem with.
At Chichester this summer there's lots going on, Rupert Everett is in Pygmailion, there's a stage version of Yes Minister with David Haig, 42nd Street is the big musical and over from the main building at the smaller Minerva Theatre there is a double bill of one-act plays both along the theme of plays within a play- and their critics.
The Real Inspector Hound was acted exactly the way I had imagined when I read it at school, it was ridiculous, campy, silly and just brilliant fun. The Critic was a little longer than Hound and I think was much better, strangely spot-on despite being written so long ago and it was riotously funny. I wasn't drunk but I hadn't laughed that much in years, I laughed so much that I was actually in pain.
Both plays were wonderfully staged with beautiful costumes- especially in The Critic, I do like the old powdered wigs etc. everyone looked so beautiful while they were being so stupid! Excellent direction, brilliant physical comedy from all the actors. Yes, it is of course the combination of sharp writing, clever direction and excellent ensemble that made these plays really shine. Joe Dixon, who I saw two years ago in the RSC's A Midsummer Night's Dream was brilliantly OTT in both plays, I was pleased I got to tell him afterwards that he had really made that Shakespeare because he was really really excellent as Bottom. I also met Sean Foley who was just as good in these two! I really love silly. I think that would be the best word for the sort of acting I appreciate. Nick le Prevost, of course, was super silly but he disguises it well by being completely natural throughout the farce, this is very good acting- but I also know that maybe he's a bit of a cheat because he's naturally a very silly man in real life -which is why I adore him. Una Stubbs cracked me up constantly in both plays and the two girls; Hermione Gulliford and Sophie Bould were so sweet, but not sickeningly so- only in a very silly way!
Yes, it hasn't been a very critical review, but I'm not a critic, this is my diary so I can remember what plays I've seen and why I loved them. I don't think I've enjoyed myself at a comedy play so much for years, I actually can't remember the last time I laughed so much. The sight of Nick dangling from the rafters hanging off a giant globe while screaming was a brilliant high to end on, and if they'd have left him up there and I hadn't got to tell him how much I enjoyed it afterwards I don't think I would have minded too much, it was perfection.

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