When faintingviolet told me that the next book club topic was going to be plays, I immediately thought of The Real Inspector Hound. I had never read it, but I had seen it performed in college, and it was by far one of the better plays I had seen. I remembered that it was funny and entertaining, and on the lighter side as well. (And luckily for people who are not all that terribly fond of reading plays, on the short side!) So, if you didn’t like it, I suppose you can place a lot of the blame on me for suggesting it!
Even though it had been 8 or 9 years since I had seen the play, I still had a sense of the tone of the play. I suppose if you went in blind, it might take awhile to get the feel of it. I remember the actor lying on the floor as the corpse. (Yes, they were that strapped for budget that they had to use a poor college student instead of a dummy, because those can get expensive. Hey, laying perfectly still on the floor for over an hour can be hard! And he got an acting credit for it, too!) I remember the absolute absurdities happening on the stage, and my surprise at the ending. I remember that it made me think.
Having seen it before, I was aware that the acting in the play-within-a-play was supposed to be over the top and kind of bad. Stoppard hints at this in the conversations Mrs. Drudge has on the telephone. Going off of that cue, I feel like the acting should either be very bad, or very campy. Campy gives more of an entertainment value for the audience. If the actors take it too seriously, you lose something. Having the actors go through their lines and hit their marks no matter what (or who is onstage) shows the school of thought that “the show must go on!” and also shows a bit of inexperience.
I found the Portland Community College production (via YouTube) of Hound to be very entertaining. The actors interpreted their roles, rather than merely read the words in their scripts. They removed a few lines and added a few gimmicks (the mispronunciation of Simon’s last name was one of my favorites) and you could tell that the actors were having a good time. Although, now that I think of it, we know who the body was in the play. But who was it supposed to be in the play-within-the-play? We’ll never know!
I also came to the conclusion that reading a play, especially a Stoppard play, in ebook form kind of sucks. I kept wanting to go back and reread a section, which was very annoying in this version. Print books for the win!