The Old Gaol Theatre Company was created in 1978 in Abingdons Old Gaol building. The Real Inspector Hound is their fourth production to appear at the Fringe. Like other Stoppard works, it blurs the distinction between two worlds, in this case the world of two hard-bitten critics and that of the country-house murder mystery they are reviewing. The play also demonstrates Stoppards delight in elaborate word-play.
The play opens with the two critics, Moon and Birdboot, preparing to watch a thriller set in an isolated country house. As the play within a play gets under way, the audience gets to see the murder mystery developing but also is made aware of the tensions within the critics lives. Eventually, the critics stop being just observers and instead become participants within the inner play.
The interplay between the two critics works very well. They often appear to be having a conversation but are actually talking about different things, with the occasional common word providing a link between the two. The murder mystery works less well; it might have benefited from a slightly more flamboyant approach to enhance the farcical elements of the play.
Although there is some loss of focus towards the end, the play works well overall and would be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates Stoppards cleverness with words and the interplay between fiction and reality.