When director Paul Prappas went looking for the right youth play to stage at Central School, he was looking for an age-appropriate piece that would simultaneously challenge his players. He ultimately chose The Real Inspector Hound, an ambitious one-act from British playwright Tom Stoppard.
“It’s basically a murder mystery with a cast of players, but it includes two theatre critics who have come here as part of the audience, and to review the show,” he said. The resulting structure means audiences will be watching two plays simultaneously.
“I’m a big fan of intellectual theatre, particularly comedies that have a lot of wordplay. I knew with Stoppard I was raising the bar, I was really making the kids work,” he said. “But these kids have done the work and its paid off. They’re really getting into their characters.
Hayden Whitman, who stars as the titular inspector, said the character has been a blast to create.
“He’s rather crazy. He’s got no idea what’s going on at any given time. He shows up to solve crimes but it’s really funny because he has no clue what to do. It’s fun to play those surprised moments when he’s got to regain his dignity. But he never does,” he said.
“He tries to be as dignified as he can be, but in most cases it doesn’t turn out like he wanted it to.”
James Tucker, who plays one of the critics in the show, said the role was a stretch for him.
“Birdboot is all over the place. He steamrollers through situation with very little regard for what’s going on around him,” he said, noting that his character is radically different than his onstage partner Moon.
Prappas said Tucker is nothing like his sociopathic character.
“He’d a cad. He treats women disrespectfully and he’s just not a nice guy. So to play him, that’s tough, because James is not that guy.”
His partner is radically different.
“Moon is a humorless man, very serious and intense in a dark way. I decided that Nemia (Darwel) had the intensity that would work for Moon, so that made my decision,” said Prappas.
The cast is rounded out by Nemia Darwel, Soleil Babcock, Sebastien Bodine, Sauhaira Darwel, Robyn Locke, Kozmo Sammartino and Jamie Hunter. The music and sound will be played by Tristan-Suggitt. The show was produced by Celeste Rayne, and the set was created by Doug Scott.
Mystery buffs will enjoy sly references to Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle embedded in the script. Tucker said it’s the humour, though, that sets the show apart.
“There’s a lot of nuance in the humour, a lot of complexity. A lot of the humour hinges on people not understanding what they’re saying, so it comes from them being misunderstood.”
The show will be staged at Central School on Friday, October 24 at 7 p.m. Two performances will be held the next day at 4 p.m and 7 p.m.