THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR - Riverhead Theatre Louth - 01 October 2021
The Government Inspector
by Nikolai Gogol adapted by Alistair Beaton
Riverhead Theatre Louth
01 October 2021
The Louth Playgoers have been rehearsing their latest offering for almost two years now as a result of COVID and the cast has undergone some noticeable changes since the first round of headshots were taken in 2020, highlighted when looking at the new insert for the programme listing cast changes. The production, by Susan Hewer, has been subject to transfered date after transfered date. It is a miracle that a play with such a large
cast has even made it to the stage. I am so pleased that it has though.
I have loved Danny Kaye's take on The Government Inspector since I was a child, so I was really looking forward to seeing how this adaptation would stand up against that. It is definitely better suited for a more modern audience with much better pacing and comic delivery more in line with contemporary humour.
The action takes place in a remote Russian village around 1885 and yet could be set in Westmister during 2021. Politicians, like leopards do not change their spots. One could almost imagine the cast of civic dignitaries giving their friends lucrative PPE contracts despite having no experience - not that such a thing could ever happen in real life!
Most of the action takes place in the wonderfully extravagant home of the mayor and his wife Anna and their daughter Marya. We meet those local bigwigs responsible for health, schools, policing, the courts and more. Every one of the civil servants are lining their own pockets at the State's expense and so when the postmaster informs them that a government inspector is planning an inconito visit to check on local administration panic sets in. Bobchinsky believes the strangers boarding at the local inn to be the inspector and his assistant. Little do the locals realise that Khlestakov and his man servant Osip are nothing more than conmen down on their luck. Through a stunningly ludicrous series of assumptions and mistken identities, the mayor invites the two conmen to share his home, hoping to attract a positive report for the town.
The canny Khlestakov realises that he has fallen on his feet, obtaining loans from the gullible townsfolk who believe that they are bribing him but Osip reminds him that it is only a matter of time before the truth becomes known. How should they respond? Should they leave before the townsfolk realise that they are being taken for a ride? These questions and more are answered as the action careens along at a rapid pace.
The whole ensemble contribute to the success of this production, but it is to Susan Hewer's credit that she directs such a large and varied cast so effectively. Some performers have blink and you miss them cameos but are nevertheless essential to recreating the size and scope of a Russian village. As the over-eager dignitaries it is difficult to comment on each of the wonderful performances from Jeremy Smith, Geoff Stone, Derek Hodges, Ray Baker, Derek Le Page, Martin Hanson and Nick Kendall, though Geoff Stone's Dr Hubner spouting German persistently was highly amusing and conveyed meaning despite never uttering a word of English throughout. And Jeremy Smith as Bobchinsky provides a marvellous comic charicature. The pompous, preening, popinjay of a mayor is played brilliantly by Jonathan Cooke with his elaborate waistcoats and ridiculous ceremonial garb.
The women of the company also give an admirable account of themselves. As Anna, Amanda Hodges is a scheming, wannabe scarlet woman competing with her daughter, played by Rebekah Hardy, for Khlestakov's affections. The pair work so well together. Jane Myers is brilliantly comic as the older servant and seems born to play Mrs Overall of Acorn Antiques at some point in the future, with just a look she conveys emotions the audience will immediately identify with. As the play progresses the women really come into their own, I won't say too much to avoid spoilers but the contest between Linda Goodman-Powell and Jane Briggs is glorious.
Playing the conniving Khlestakov is the wonderfully comic John Hewer who was simply born to lead comedy productions. He simply has funny bones. The chemistry between Hewer and Peter McKenzie-Brown's long-suffering manservant, Osip, is palpable and it is Osip who realises that they are imperiled by Khlestakov's excessive misbehaviour in taking advantage of the wittingly dumb townsfolk.
The ensemble is rounded out by a chorus made up of Neil Ward,Ross Martinelli, Jake Ashman, Michelle Brown, Carol Skill and Ken Watkinson. All play their part as if their lives depended upon the good graces of the faux Givernment Inspector!
The set is a wonderful suggestion of the lavish lifestyle enjoyed at public expense by the Mayor and his family in a luurious wood-panelled room bedecked with expensive paintings. Thank goodness OUR politicians would never dream of using vast sums of public money to decorate the walls of their personal residence with priceless artwork *coughs*.
This play is a terrific tonic for the times. As Summer turns to Autumn, the cold and the rain begin to take hold. The Government Inspector provides a wonderful, entertaining diversion for Louth audiences and I thoroughly recommend the show as a pick-me-up that will have its audiences laughing loudly as the farce spirals out of control threatenting to take the wealthy, the pompous and the corrupt with it.
The play runs from Monday 4th - Saturday 9th October.
Tickets avialble from www.louthriverheadtheatre.com or by calling the box office on 01507 600350.
Andy Evans 02 October 2021