REVIEW: The Government Inspector
A play of mistaken identities
A rare gothic-comedy, The Government Inspector gets some good laughs, mostly thanks to a strong cast.
Set in a small Russian town, The Government Inspector is the tale of a neuralgic mayor and his gullible townspeople. They are confronted with a case of mistaken identity when they assume the newest visitor to their town is the Government Inspector, and not just a sex-mad twenty-something year old (guess which is true).
The acting was great, with stand-out performances from Olly Francis and Katie Woods as the comic duo Bobchinski and Dobchinski, and Kim Alexander as Anna, the Mayor’s wife with high aspirations and an equally high level of characterisation that she maintained throughout the play. The variety of townspeople were also convincingly played, and the interactions between them provided some of the funniest moments.
However, it may be put down to a difficult audience, but the “rip-roaring comedy” aspect fell slightly flat. The sound effects at every mention of ‘The Government Inspector’ had the potential to be funny, but they were quite long and led to awkward pauses in the scenes as the actors themselves did not seem completely sure about how they were meant to react. Still, Comrie-Saville Ferguson (Khlestakov) did have some excellent asides to the audience, and they were delivered in such a deadpan attitude that he did receive some well-earned laughs.
The set certainly delivered on the promised cobwebs, but it wasn’t entirely clear how they added to the play, with most of the characters just looking like their costumes had been in storage for a while, rather than creating a particularly gothic atmosphere. Perhaps this was meant to be accentuated by the slightly ominous voiceover, complete with heartbeats, but it didn’t really add to the performance – the genres of comic and gothic performance were not always successfully united.
This was an enjoyable play, although I am as bemused as some of the characters about its halfway-gothic-slash-comic theme.