The Muldoon Manor phone that rings between acts can be seen as a symbol of the clash between on-stage and off-stage action. Moon picks up the phone, learning that Myrtle, Birdboot's wife, is on the other end. The phone precipitates the merging of the off-stage action of the theater critics and the on-stage murder mystery. Of course, a prop phone should not actually be able to make or receive calls, so the mere existence of this scenario lends itself to the Absurdism genre of the play.
The motif of overlapping dialogue is another mechanism through which Stoppard manipulates the layers of reality that at first compete, and then merge towards the end of the play. The dueling soliloquies of Moon and Birdboot represent that they are lost within their own worlds, and Birdboot's "performance" in Simon's role when he leaps up on stage syncs up perfectly with Cynthia's previous dialogue. These moments signal that reality is to be questioned, and that identity and sense of self are always more complex than they appear.
Moon congratulates Birdboot on his review that has been recreated in neon, for all the world to see. This symbolizes just how much more renowned Birdboot has in the theater world than Moon. Birdboot shakes off the compliment, but this is false modesty - he carries transparencies of the sign with him. The neon sign represents Birdboot's obsession with reputation, and also Moon's existential crisis concerning his own standing as a critic.
Black Magic chocolates
After Moon goes on a tirade about Higgs, the stage direction reads:
[Pause. BIRDBOOT regards him doubtfully. He is at a loss, and grasps reality in the form of his box of chocolates.]
The Black Magic chocolates are a tangible thing that Birdboot can cling to, lost in the conversations about identity that populate the opening of the play. A few moments later, Moon interrupts Birdboot's protestations about his alleged infidelity to ask for a chocolate. Moon asks for a list of impossible, wacky flavors not in the box. The chocolates are then a comical set piece, symbolizing the comic, Absurdist nature of the play and also the lax attitudes of the critics. They are on the clock, but treat the play they are supposed to review as a piece of fluff, predictable entertainment.
Police radio messages
Throughout the play-within-a-play, radio messages deliver the necessary exposition to the guests at Muldoon Manor. These heavily expository messages poke fun at the conventions of 'whodunits' in their overtness. They always air at precisely the moment where such information would be necessary, and contain information uniquely cogent to the scenario. This motif is a sly amplification of a tool of the genre Stoppard satirizes in The Real Inspector Hound.
The Real Inspector Hound Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Real Inspector Hound is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Hound appears in the middle of the play to investigate an alleged phone call. His character takes its inspiration from Hound of the Baskervilles, the third of four crime novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and published in 1902. In that novel, the...