Refreshingly innovative with a quirky sense of humour, the diverse cast of The Government Inspector present a modern and inclusive version of Nikolai Gogol’s satire.
As the seats begin to fill, an unidentifiable figure tosses and turns on stage, deep in slumber on the floor of what looks like a grand 1920s style public building. It even has a fully functioning lift that is used at various points in the performance to comic effect. We later find the impressive set is the lobby of a government establishment in which the abruptly awakened Mayor of a Russian town hurriedly gathers his officials to prepare for the arrival of a government inspector. We stay on the inside of the building for the majority of the play and are only treated to descriptions of litter strewn streets and sickly hospitals to imagine the town beyond the cast iron structure. Consequently, the political undertones are played out subtly but definitely exist as we witness how the privileged bourgeoisie and ruling class lead their region.
Politics is soon entangled with witty hilarity as double act Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky lead the Mayor to a bedazzled Khlestakov, the man who everyone foolishly mistakes as the government inspector. The exaggerated efforts of the Mayor and his accomplices to impress the so-called inspector result in a chaos of farce which is characterised by an ample offering of well delivered innuendos, tongue in cheek humour and sharp slapstick.
An ambitious but rewarding challenge within this performance is the full integration of BSL into the script and staging. Instead of having interpreters side-lined and presented as an supplementary element, they are placed, quite literally, centre stage. At no point does it feel out of place; performers Jean St Clair and Becky Barry navigate the stage with deftness and precise timing that adds rather than distracts.
Accessibility becomes a part and parcel of the making of this performance as it is used thoughtfully and creatively to liven the comedy in a ground breaking and unmistakably current piece of theatre.