Tom Stoppard Dogg's... & Cahoot's...

by Tom Stoppard

Start Free Trial

The Inspector's Inability to Learn Dogg in Stoppard's Play

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

In Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, most of the characters who do not speak Dogg at the beginning have picked it up by the end, just by listening to others speak it. This mirrors the audience's experience as they learn Dogg along with the characters. However, there is one major character who does not understand Dogg—the inspector. In her 1999 chapter on Stoppard' s political plays in Twayne 's English Authors Series Online, Susan Rusinko noted of the inspector that ‘‘Without realizing it he has picked up some Dogg, thus illustrating the ... earlier comment that one doesn't learn Dogg, but only catches it.’’ Why is the inspector able to catch the Dogg language enough to repeat it but not understand it? Two of the inspector's characteristics prevent him from being able to ultimately understand Dogg—his confusion over how his own language works and his desire for normalcy.

When the inspector arrives at the hostess's apartment partway through Cahoot's Macbeth, it is instantly apparent that he is a little confused, as Stoppard notes in the stage directions: "He seems surprised to find himself where he is.’’ The inspector asks if he is at one of two different theaters and is surprised when he finds out it is neither theater. Says the inspector, ‘‘I'm utterly nonplussed. I must have got my wires crossed somewhere.’’ As the play continues, the audience gets a view of how utterly confused this individual is. In fact, it is ironic that at one point in the play, the inspector, threatening the hostess with potential legal action, tells her that "Words can be your friend or your enemy, depending on who's throwing the book, so watch your language.’’ In Cahoot's Macbeth, words become the friend of the actors and the enemy of the inspector.

The inspector is a likely target to dupe through the use of words, because he does not have a good command of English as it is. He is constantly offering contradictory words or phrases in the same sentence and, on certain occasions, seems to search for the meaning even as he says them. For example, after the inspector has started examining the audience, he warns the hostess that"If there isn' t a catch I'll put you up as a heroine of the revolution. I mean, the counter-revolution. No, I tell a lie, I mean the normalization—Yes, I know.’’ Revolution and counter-revolution are contradictory terms, and normalization is another word for the type of censorship that Czechoslovakia imposed on its citizens in the 1970s. So, he could not very well arrest the hostess for being a heroine of the conformity that he is trying to enforce. In statements like these, the inspector shows himself to be something of a confused person when it comes to using and understanding words. Another example is when he congratulates one of the actors on the performance, saying, ‘‘Stunning! Incredible! Absolutely fair to middling.’’ The first two are legitimate compliments, while the last statement can be viewed as an insult and definitely does not belong with the other two.

Still, it seems as if the inspector tries to flaunt his linguistic knowledge—or lack thereof. He often mixes foreign language fragments in with his statements, and they do not always make sense or belong in the sentence. For example, after he says that his initial assessment of Macbeth is good, he soon says that he was lying, because he is following the creed "when in Rome parlezvous as the natives do.'' This statement mixes Rome as a location, the French phrase parlez vous , and the...

(This entire section contains 1500 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

word "natives," which implies Native Americans or some other form of tribal culture. In another instance, at the end of the play, after he gives a cue to Roger, the man running the tape recorder, the inspector is ready to try to arrest everybody. At this point he incorporates a couple of foreign languages along with English: ‘‘Right—that's it (To ceiling.) Roger! (To the audience.) Put your hands on your heads. Put your— placay manos—per capita... nix toiletto!'' He also speaks in accents, such as when he hears a Scottish line from the Macbeth play and tries to mimic it: ‘‘Och aye, it's a braw bricht moonlicht nicked, and so are you, you haggis-headed dumbwits, hoots mon ye must think I was born yesterday.'' In addition to creating strange foreign language concoctions, the inspector tends to mix his metaphors and other sayings. In one threat, he warns, ‘‘I'm the cream in your coffee, the sugar in your tank, and the breeze blowing down your neck.'' The first description is a positive one, whereas ‘‘sugar in your tank’’—if Stoppard means it to refer to the prank of pouring sugar into someone's gas tank to incapacitate it—is definitely less pleasant than the first. And a "breeze blowing down your neck'' is a neutral statement that is not inherently good or bad. The best example of the inspector mixing up his metaphors happens when he is discussing why artists are being censored:

A few years ago, you suddenly had it on toast, but when they gave you an inch you overplayed your hand and rocked the boat so they pulled the rug out from under you, and now you're in the doghouse ... I mean, that is pure fact. Metaphorically speaking. It describes what happened to you in a way that anybody can understand.

By the end of the play, the inspector is speaking Dogg, but he does not know it. Unwittingly, he gives a long speech in Dogg: ‘‘Scabs! Stinking slobs—crooks. You're nicked, Jock. Punks make me puke. Kick back, I'll break necks, smack chops, put yobs in padlocks and fix facts. Clamp down on poncy gits like a ton of bricks.’’ The English words that the inspector uses all have a heated tone to them and sound like a threat. However, in Dogg, apparently the inspector has made a great speech, because everybody responds favorably to it, clapping and showing their praise.

In addition to not understanding the rules of his own language, which is often the precursor to effectively learning a new language, the inspector also has a lack of open-mindedness to anything that is not normal. When he first arrives, the inspector gives his view of artists. He tells the hostess: "I can see you're not at the bottom of the social heap. What do you do?’’ When the hostess tells him, ‘‘I'm an artist,’’ the inspector notes: ‘‘Well it's not the first time I've been wrong.’’ In other words, he sees artists as being at the bottom of the social heap. When it comes to art, the inspector is only able to see and approve of art that adheres to the censorship laws, which is not art in the conventional sense. The inspector tells Landovsky (who plays Macbeth in the play) that he is a big fan of his, but Landovsky says he has not worked for years, meaning that the censorship laws have kept him from acting.

However, the inspector persists and asks him where he was the previous year. Landovsky says,"I was selling papers in—'' Here, the inspector excitedly finishes Landovsky's sentence: "—the newspaper kiosk at the tram terminus, and you were wonderful! I said to my wife, that's Landovsky— the actor—isn't he great?’’ To the inspector, high art is the mundane task of selling newspapers and watching great acting is observing Landovsky saying "Getcha paper!'' at his job. In fact, when faced with normal acting, the inspector does not always understand it. For example, after watching a part of Macbeth, a tragedy, he says, ‘‘Very good. Very good! And so nice to have a play with a happy ending for a change.’’

The inspector is so against uniqueness that he considers his barely educated coworkers a potential threat: "Yes, one of them can read and the other one can write. That's why we have to go around in threes—I have to keep an eye on those bloody intellectuals.'' The inspector prefers the normalization that Czechoslovakia is under, which keeps everybody at a certain intelligence level and discourages freedom of thought. When somebody asks him about their rights in the Constitution, he says: ‘‘Personally I can't read that stuff. Nobody talks like that so it's not reasonable to expect them to live like it.’’ Even the Constitution falls outside the normalization that the inspector adheres to.

In the end, this dependency on normalcy, coupled with the inspector's inability to master the English language, prevents the inspector from understanding Dogg, an abnormal language. As a result, the very thing that terrifies him—freedom of expression—is performed right in front of him, and he is not able to do anything about it except try to wall off the stage so that the audience cannot see the show anymore.

Source: Ryan D. Poquette, Critical Essay on Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, in Drama for Students, The Gale Group, 2003.

The Dissidents

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

In Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, however, Stoppard returns to the formal exuberance of the earlier stage plays. In the first half of the play, by staging a language-game from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Stoppard attempts to teach a new language to the audience. This element of engagement is heightened in the second half when the bizarre proceedings (which have included crude slapstick and the staging of a ravaged Shakespearean text) are suddenly transposed into a new and menacing context. Philosophical parlour-game and mildly diverting stage-business are given a critically new aspect. Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth evinces, in this sense, the same intention as Travesties; both show Stoppard's desire to ambush his audience's assumptions about the kind of play they are watching.

The opening section (a conflation of two plays previously written for Ed Berman's Inter-Action Group, The Fifteen Minute Hamlet and Dogg 's Our Pet) is a demonstration of the central tenet of Philosophical Investigations—that language is not a calculus logically inferred from the grid-pattern of reality but a form of life, a communal activity capable of change and growth. Indeed, the play shows Stoppard's discovery in Philosophical Investigations of ideas and tools which meet his needs as a dramatist, as well as some which deny them. First, the form of language analysis that is practised and recommended in Philosophical Investigations is an advance from that of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Language is no longer to be analysed back, through a hierarchy of forms, to the reality it transposes. Language is now itself the primal reality; because it has no external support language is not reduced in analysis but laid bare. Analysis displays the manifold language-forms which have become so entwined and knotted that the whole has acquired a prodigious internal strength. Meaning, for the later Wittgenstein, is defined not by an appeal beyond language: it is identified quite squarely with use. Language is a public activity and understanding is defined accordingly as the applicational knowledge of certain operative conventions. Wittgenstein insists, as a consequence, that language can never be private, that it exists solely by virtue of its public presence. Such conclusions would appear to deny the strivings of the spiritual loner or dissident in their attempt to make language susceptible to private initiative: private intention and conviction are ever smothered by the public form of language.

There are, however, other implications to Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein claims that no discourse is inherently 'realistic' in the sense of being a simple transposition of a state of affairs beyond it. Indeed, freed from any obligation to exterior supports, language becomes alive, capable of change. Philosophical Investigations is full of reminders of this obvious fact about language—that it is a continual process of renewal and formation. There are, Wittgenstein tells us, countless different kinds of sentences, and 'this multiplicity is not something fixed, given once for all; but new types of language, new language-games, as we may say, come into existence, and others become obsolete and get forgotten.' Pursuing this analogy between language-forms and the games we play he points to the case where we make up the rules as we go along, and 'there is even one where we can alter them—as we go along.'

Wittgenstein's insistence that no single language-form, or collection of rules, is guaranteed by external support parallels Stoppard's that language can be appropriated as a means of criticism. The possibility of dissent as a way of life with its own language—making up the rules, perhaps, as it goes along—becomes real. From this angle Wittgenstein's declaration of the impossibility of a private language looks rather different. When he says this he means that no language is necessarily unteachable, that no language is learnt simply by a process of introspection matched with ostensive definition. The language of dissent must, then, be a group activity: a form of life and a means of expression capable of being learned by others. (Just, in fact, as it is learnt by Anderson.) Language as dissent can be caught, learnt in a flash: 'And this is just what we say we do. That is to say: we sometimes describe what we do in these words. But there is nothing astonishing, nothing queer, about what happens.' Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth is about learning in a flash, about spontaneous dissent and the fitting of words to the requirements of a form of life.

The second half of the play presents us with the attempts of a group of dissident actors to perform a truncated version of Macbeth which, for the assembled audience, in portraying a brutal and illegal seizure of power, is a reflection of what has happened in Czechoslovakia. For the dissidents the crowning of Malcolm is both an assertion of hope and an affirmation of faith in the efficacy of criticism. The proceedings are constantly interrupted by the Inspector (a sinister development of Stoppard's earlier comic detectives, owing much to Orton's Truscott) who attempts to appropriate both the text and the performance by ending it at the crowning of Macbeth and lauding it with his ominous banalities: 'Very good. Very good! And so nice to have a play with a happy ending for a change.' Stoppard's audience have already picked up some Dogg-lan-guage before the interval as they follow the attempts of the lorry-driver, Easy, to make sense of the strange world he has wandered into. In the end, Easy learns Dogg for the specific purpose of abusing the authoritarian headmaster of the boys' school. His entrance in the second half, as he blunders into the action and confuses himself with Banquo's ghost, gives the troupe the chance to use Dogg to finish their performance of Macbeth in spite of the Inspector's intrusive presence.

The Inspector is a further demonstration of Stoppard's abiding claim that politically repressive systems are linguistically repressive also. The problem for the actors is that, like the jumpers, he can do with language what he will. 'I've got the penal code tattooed on my whistle,' he assures Landovsky, 'and there's a lot about you in it. Section 98, subversion—anyone acting out of hostility to the state.. .Section 100, incitement, anyone acting out of hostility to the state.. .I could nick you just for acting—and the sentence is double for an organised group, which I can make stick on Robinson Crusoe and his man any day of the week'. The pun, for the Inspector, is an offensive tactic, a means of making us listen in a certain way: 'You know as well as I do that this performance of yours goes right against the spirit of normalization. When you clean out the stables, Cahoot, the muck is supposed to go into the gutter, not find its way back into the stalls'. 'Words,' he announces, happily, 'can be your friend or your enemy, depending on who's throwing the book, so watch your language.'

However, the inventiveness of the Inspector is matched, indeed surpassed, by that of the dissidents. Cahoot (who has earlier howled on all-fours and been accused by the Inspector of being in the 'doghouse') starts to abuse him, reminding the audience that 'Afternoon, squire,' means, in Dogg, 'Get stuffed, you bastard.' The Inspector asks where Easy learnt Dogg: 'You don't learn it,' replies Cahoot, 'you catch it'. This riposte is a triumphant reapplication of the formulaic identification of disease with dissent which is at the centre of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and evidence of Stoppard's appropriation of Wittgenstein's claim that we can learn in a flash. (Compare the Inspector's 'She's making it up as she goes along' when 'Lady Macbeth' starts to translate Shakespeare into Dogg, which is a similar reflection on Wittgenstein— this time on his remarks about the way we evolve rules for new language-games.) The performance of Macbeth, and that of Stoppard's own play, now speed to a climax. Dogg becomes a means of repelling the Inspector (his announcement that anything they say will be taken down and played back at the trial meets with the response, 'Bicycles! Plank!' and of completing Macbeth before he realises what is happening. He is at a complete loss as language is wrested from his control. In fact, it is now the Inspector who appears to be spouting nonsense: 'Wilco zebra over,' he bellows into his walkie-talkie, 'Green Charlie Angels 15 out'. By teaching his audience Dogg-language Stoppard has implicated them in an act of collective and effective dissent, completing the train of development which successively diminishes the isolation of his characters who criticise the premises and procedures of the Communist state.

In Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, the jokes, claimed Michael Billington in reviewing the first production, 'are too relentless and by the end the fun has become diagrammatic rather than, in any sense, spontaneous.' The remark reminds us of Stoppard's own praise of Muriel Spark in Scene, his claim that, at its best, her work does not so much promulgate a thesis as toy with it, and have fun with it. Although the emphasis on spontaneity is something of a red herring (we have seen how the 'playfulness' of Stoppard's drama is deliberate and pointed rather than simply high-spirited and diverting) Billington has located a problem with Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth. The play protests too much: the slapstick and hectic confusion of the finale are the work of the guilty conscience, abashed by its own earnestness. In Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul and Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth Stoppard is on the attack against the iniquities of Communist governments in general, and that of Czechoslovakia in particular. Between the two latter, however, comes Night and Day and here, as in The Real Thing, his most recent stage play, he is on the defensive: both plays attempt to promulgate a thesis, mounting apologies for the political status quo in Britain. An examination of certain contradictions and confusions in Stoppard's thinking on the relationship of politics and art (and that of drama to the problems it addresses) will prepare the way for an understanding of how Night and Day and The Real Thing betray his distinctive gifts as a dramatist and how, in the name of freedom, they seek to deny to their audience the possibility of dissent.

Source: Neil Sammells, ‘‘The Dissidents,’’ in Tom Stoppard: The Artist as Critic, Macmillan Press, 1988, pp. 111-22.

Cricket Bats and Passion

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

At the same time as Night and Day was running at the Phoenix and Undiscovered Country at the Olivier (both plays deriving from mainstream European naturalism), Stoppard also had performed in London two linked one-act plays, Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth that were anti-naturalistic in style and cerebral. They brought together several of Stoppard's prime concerns: Shakespeare, Wittgenstein, language-games, and the heavy-handed persecution of artists (and many others) in Czechoslovakia. Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth were written for BARC: the British American Repertory Company which was devised by Ed Berman as a means of allowing non-star actors to function on either side of the Atlantic. It was a useful, if shortlived, idea. And it encouraged Stoppard to conceive an entertainment that was playful and serious at the same time, but, one is bound to say, nowhere near as successful as a naturalistic masterpiece like Professional Foul in plunging our noses into the Czech situation or achieving what Benedict Nightingale called a 'committed hilarity'.

Dogg's Hamlet (an extension of the earlier Dogg 's Our Pet) was based partly on Wittgenstein's notion of language as an assemblage of games as various in their nature as hopscotch, polo and chess. Stoppard himself says, 'The appeal to me consisted in the possibility of writing a play which had to teach the audience the language the play was written in.' So we see a group of schoolboys, with names like Able, Baker, Charlie, erecting a platform for a prize-giving and speaking a nonsenselingo (Dogg) in which words often have the opposite meaning from their familiar associations. Thus when a schoolboy says to his headmaster 'Cretinous pig-faced git?' he is actually enquiring 'Have you got the time please, sir?' What complicates the situation is that the boys are also rehearsing the school play and lapse into Shakespearian English and that a lorry-driver, Easy, arrives with a load of blocks from Leamington Spa and also speaks received English. When he cries matily to the headmaster, 'Afternoon, Squire' he doesn't realise that translates in Dogg as 'Get stuffed, you bastard.' And when the headmaster says to him 'Moronic creep' his natural instinct is to grab him by the lapels not realising he is referring to the maroon carpet. Stoppard's point is perfectly clear: that language is an arbitrary means of signification. It also leads to some good jokes such as a figure of imperturbable regality beginning her speech to the assembled pupils with 'Scabs, slobs, yobs, yids, spicks, wops ...' But although Stoppard proves to his, and our, satisfaction that language is a form of game and that we can very quickly become attuned to the new rules (Easy soon becomes conversant with Dogg), one is secretly rather glad when the joke is over and the letters spelling out 'Dogg's Hamlet' appear on the assembled blocks.

After this slightly dogged opening what follows is, in theatrical terms, hilarious: a potted 15-minute version of Hamlet as performed by Stoppard's students to whom Shakespeare is clearly a foreign language. Stoppard is by no means the first person to appreciate both the laughs you can get and the shock effects you can create by chopping up Shakespeare and even transposing the lines. Many years ago in Punch, Paul Dehn came up with a potted Macbeth that boasted the memorable couplet, 'The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon,/ Whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone.' And, on a marginally higher level, Charles Marowitz has offered his own collage versions of Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello.

Marowitz's collage-effects are, for me, less theatrical than Stoppard' s collegiate humour which both makes the point that you can preserve the salient points of Hamlet in a boiled-down version and also says something about the modern world's impatient hunger for compression and its short-circuiting of human sensibility. First Stoppard brings on Shakespeare himself who, in an opening Prologue, confirms the opinion of the lady who said that Hamlet was full of quotations by offering us all the best-known lines ending with 'Cat will mew and Dogg will have his day'. We then launch into what Jack Kroll in Newsweek called 'transistorized Shakespeare'. No sooner, for instance, has Hamlet said 'To be or not to be that is the question' than Ophelia rushes in crying 'My lord' and is peremptorily told 'Get thee to a nunnery'. On stage, the effect is of watching Hamlet played at lightning speed by the Keystone Cops. The joke is not at the expense of Shakespeare but of a modern society that has little time for philosophical digressions or teased-out dilemmas, and craves incessant action executed by moral ciphers. Spurred to an encore, the cast then do a 90-second repeat of the whole play that leaves one helpless with laughter.

Cahoot's Macbeth, in the second half of the evening, also plays on the idea of truncated Shakespeare and the power of words to take on new meanings depending on the context in which they are used. The purpose here is anything but frivolous since it is to draw attention to the iniquities of the Czech regime and the fact that an acclaimed actor, Pavel Landovsky, (who was driving the car on the day in January, 1977 when police stopped him and his friend's car and seized the document that became known as Charter '77) had been driven from his profession in the theatre and obliged to take Living-Room Theatre into people's homes. Interestingly, there is a similar company in Britain that, on request, will come and perform A Streetcar Named Desire or The Servant in your home; but what for us is bourgeois titillation is in Czechoslovakia the only means of self-expression for outlawed actors.

Stoppard imagines such a troupe performing Macbeth in a private sitting-room with us, the theatre audience, becoming the assembled playgoers. The performance is then interrupted by a grotesque Inspector (a favourite Stoppard character) who is both more theatrical than the actors and a sinister-comic agent of repression. The play works on several levels: on one, it is a reminder of the horrific modern applicability of Shakespeare's tragedy with its theme of the illegal usurpation of power; on another, it is a jokey farce that uses (like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and The Real Inspector Hound) the intrusion of reality into theatrical artifice.

It is a dangerous, tightrope-walking play because it makes us laugh at a situation that in real life is anything but funny. Stoppard gets away with it partly because of his own impeccable credentials as a human-rights campaigner, partly because there is nothing tentative or apologetic about his jokes, and partly because the laughs all point up the gravity of the situation. Discovering a telephone under a tea-cosy, the Inspector is perturbed:

INSPECTOR: You've even got a telephone. I can see you're not at the bottom of the social heap. What do you do?

HOSTESS: I'm an artist.

INSPECTOR: Well it's not the first time I've been wrong.

In a country where, as Stoppard recorded in the New York Review of Books, you can find boilers stoked by economists, streets swept by men reading Henry James in English, where filing-clerks rise early to write articles for learned journals abroad and where third-rate time-servers are chauffeured around in black, bulbous Tatra 603s, the Inspector's response is all too apt. What Stoppard does in the play is depict the upside-down nature of a society in which a fine actor like Landovsky is acclaimed by the coarse-grained Inspector for his work as a factory floor-cleaner or a newspaper seller and in which language itself is corrupted. George Orwell in 1984 and Animal Farm reminded us that language and liberty are intertwined and that when words are perverted or repressed so is freedom. Stoppard makes the same point through brutal, quick-fire comedy:

INSPECTOR (to HOSTESS): Which one were you?

HOSTESS: I'm not in it.

INSPECTOR: You're in it, up to here. It's pretty clear to me that this flat is being used for entertaining men. There is a law about that you know.

HOSTESS: I don't think MacBeth is what was meant.

INSPECTOR: Who's to say what was meant? Words can be your friend or your enemy depending on who's throwing the book, so watch your language.

Maybe there is something too direct and up-front about the way Stoppard sends a figure like Orton's Inspector Truscott from Loot crashing around pointing out the way artists are degraded, rooms are bugged, language is twisted and Shakespeare becomes a reckless subversive in a police-state: the play lacks the subtlety of Professional Foul. But it gets its point across through a mixture of unashamed farce and clear statement; and never more so than when the Inspector points out that Shakespeare— Old Bill as he is known to the force—becomes all too contemporary in politically explosive situations:

'The fact is that when you get a universal and timeless writer like Shakespeare there's a strong feeling that he could be spitting in the eyes of the beholder when he should be keeping his mind on Verona—hanging around the "gents." You know what I mean. Unwittingly, of course. He didn't know what he was doing, at least you couldn't prove he did, which is what makes the chief so prejudiced against him.'

I am reminded of Ian McKellen's account in the book, A Night at the Theatre, of playing Richard II in Bratislava in 1969 after the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. During the scene where Richard weeps for joy to stand upon his kingdom once again, as McKellen spoke the familiar lines, 'Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand' he became aware of a collective mewing, grieving, crying sound from the audience: a token of their recognition of the earth as their only symbol of a future freedom and a continuing past. Stoppard also never lets us forget the relevance of Macbeth to modern Czechoslovakia even to the point of having a police-siren wail as Macduff cries 'Bleed, bleed, poor country.'

The good thing about Cahoot's Macbeth is that it brings home to spectators in privileged Britain and America a glimmer of what it must be like to live in a country where the simple act of putting on a play may land you in gaol. It is affirmative, committed, political: all those things one has always wished Stoppard to be. My only real cavil is that Stoppard's love of diagrammatic neatness slightly runs away with him and he rounds off the play by bringing back the Dogg-speaking lorry-driver, Easy, with a load of timber for Birnam Wood, the actors tune in to Dogg themselves and deliver the final speeches of Macbeth in this alternative language. It's a clever way of bringing the evening full circle and of harnessing Stoppard's fascination with word-games and Shakespeare to the uncontainability of the Czech situation as Malcolm takes the crown off Macbeth's head and places it on his own. The implication is that change is inevitable. But, lively as Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth is, you feel at the end of the evening you haven't quite seen Stoppard stretching his talent to his fullest; and that his true direction for the future lies away from theatre-as-game and towards the excavation of true feeling. It wouldn't be fair to say that this generously-donated double-bill shows Stoppard BARC-ing up the wrong tree but it seems a digression from his exploration of a refined and heightened naturalism.

Source: Michael Billington, ‘‘Cricket Bats and Passion,’’ in Stoppard: The Playwright, Methuen, 1987, pp. 132-68.


Critical Overview