A play by Tom Stoppard, a parody of the country house detective genre. Moon and Birdboot are theatre critics watching the new play. They are also complaining about the job of being a critic, and comparing reviews they have had up in lights. Or at least, that Birdboot has had: for like actors, critics have their principal and understudy, and Moon is only here covering it because for once Higgs has not turned up.

The dreadful play featuring the usual tennis-playing upper classes gradually drags Moon and Birdboot in, with the clichéd lines of Act One (in which Inspector Hound comes to the Manor to solve the murder) turning into genuine lines for the critics on-stage in Act Two as they start justifying their behaviour to the actresses they have been encouraging.

The Real Inspector Hound is seldom staged, but is very often quoted by real theatre critics, who seem to be tickled pink to be actually in a play. Which, I guess, was Stoppard's point.

It was first performed on 17 June 1968 with Richard Briers as Moon, Ronnie Barker as Birdboot, and Josephine Tewson as Mrs Drudge, who pops in to the Manor on her bicycle from time to time when it's not cut off by floodwaters or impenetrable fog.

The first play I ever performed in, during my junior year of high school. We had a somewhat unusual director that year, one who took theatre very seriously, and who took the anal retentive, redneck conservative administration considerably less so.

Naturally, Fred Metzger only lasted the year.

He was replaced by a dutiful Baptist drone who shall remain nameless, but whose greatest virtue was to be so clueless about the dramatic canon as to let me and a group of friends cooperatively direct and stage a full production of Hedda Gabler, without realizing the themes that play develops in fairly direct and visceral terms. Perhaos it was really the saving grace of that horrid Victorian Archer translation) we used, since it handled themes of contemplated abortion and suicide in oblique (language that is far less clear on the page than it becomes once on the stage.

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