Gogol’s 1836 Russian comedy has been revamped by the Birmingham Rep and the timeless themes of corruption, greed and debauchery provide a lot of laughs.
The Mayor of a Russian town and his equally corrupt officials are terrified. An incognito Inspector is arriving to investigate the town and, as they prepare to cover up, news spreads that a distinguished young man arrived two weeks earlier from Saint Petersburg and is staying in the inn – the Inspector? From here onwards chaos ensues, as they become determined to hide their sins and impress the Inspector, not knowing he may have some sins of his own.
One of the play’s strengths is its ability to incorporate sign language and disabled actors in a way that doesn’t isolate them. Of course, neither are new to theatre but the approach taken isn’t something I’ve seen before. Rather than having the sign interpreter at the side of the stage, she becomes a character – embedded in the performance. This makes the play accessible, inclusive and most importantly, breaks down barriers between the characters.
This does, however, mean that there’s a lot happening onstage, especially as there are often 6 -8 characters present throughout, making it difficult to focus. It also doesn’t help that the pace lags in the first half, arguably due to the lack of narrative.
That said, it redeems itself in the second half when the striking set design enhances the storytelling of the overall production. This is perhaps most noticeable with the use of lighting which is deftly interchanged throughout to signal the internal trepidations of the various characters.
Full of energy, physical comedy and political satire, ‘The Government Inspector’ provides an amusing night out at the theatre.
For more information on the production and how to buy tickets:
Edited by Georgina Varley