Tom Stoppard – The Real Inspector Hound
Dario Fo – The Open Couple
26 – 29 November 2014
Rondo Theatre, Larkhall, BATH
Director of our Autumn season offering, John Reid, talks to us about the upcoming comedic double bill.
In Fo’s farce, the battle of the sexes is a comic double act originally improvised into life by Fo and his partner, Franca Rame, around the theme of an ‘open marriage’ where either partner can have other sexual relationships. Apparently, at the time, the theme had more than just fictional significance for the pair of writers dealing with it. Any trace of domestic needle may have been kept at bay when Fo decided to direct the first performance with two women acting the roles of Man and Woman and thereby heightening the satirical focus upon the chauvinistic male. How tactful! But we prefer the brutal realities of Husband versus Wife – why should we desert our (British) Punch and Judy traditions? Each of the sparring partners vies to enlist the sympathies of the audience on their particular side through wicked parodies of the attitudes of the opposite sex. It is a fight to the finish with fists, crutches, cravats, and hairdryers. For all men in the audience, this play is a bitter reminder of the importance of having your own hairdryer.
Tom Stoppard’s hilarious spoof on the classic country-house whodunnit thriller takes on an extratheatrical dimension of spoofiness when the two theatre critics, who are reviewing the coarse acting that we are watching, suddenly become caught up in the murder plot. (It’s the critics wot dunnit!) In the early sixties, Stoppard (in his mid-twenties) had churned out over one hundred reviews for a short-lived arts magazine (Scene) and, being short of money at the time, had resorted to pseudonyms, in order to disguise his ubiquitous presence as a reviewing hack. In one of his (parody) columnist roles, as ‘Slurp’, he took a swipe at the ever-increasing popularity of thrillers in West End theatres – his columnist murders a theatrical producer keen on such thrillers with a very blunt instrument – the quarto hidebound edition of Agatha Christie’s Works. He then eats his own review words and chokes to death. In our play, the parody of the Agatha Christie whodunnit is a sublime piece of satirical sketch writing – and the pile-up of dead theatre critics has all the absurdist excess of the Goon show. Does the audience come into this comic reckoning process? – see what you think. But please leave blunt instruments and mousetraps in the cloakroom.
John Reid, Oct 2014