The Government Inspector
Nikolai Gogol, adapted by Adrian Mitchell
Communicado and Tron Theatre production
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. and touring
This production is dedicated to Adrian Mitchell who adapted Gogol's 170 year old play in 1985, and this production does him proud with Mitchell's lines rolling effortlessly off the tongues of the tight troupe. The sharp dialogue is perfectly balanced with quirky scene changes and the energy and creativity of the cast mean the two and a half hours fly past.
The dialogue has all the greater punch through being delivered in a variety of Scots accents and one Geordie one to spice things up. The Governor (John Bett) has a particularly roguish accent and air about him and his asides to the audience send fits of giggles through the debris of the fourth wall.
The plays flies along with breakneck pace: all the actors keep the dialogue zipping along but the double act of Dobchinsky (Tim Licate) and Bobchinsky (Mark Prendergast) deserve particular mention.
It is surprising the original predates Bertolt Brecht's work by nearly a century, so perhaps the Brechtian feel of the piece is thanks to Mitchell or Gerry Mulgrew the director or maybe Gogol's influence on Brecht. Whichever, it certainly suits this attack on state corruption. The staging is entertaining but the comedy is savage: all the characters are exposed by the play and once it has achieved this it turns on the audience.
The production does not hold back, in its ridiculous characters, exuberant choruses between scenes with all the performers grabbing instruments, or in the avalanche of facial hair on display. Amidst the mass of beards appears clean-shaven Khlestakov, the man from St Petersburg, mistaken for a government inspector. Clark, a Traverse regular, makes sure that Khlestakov doesn't come even close to being the hero of the play; while his character shows up the pathetic town officials for what they are, his character is detestable in other ways; lazy, drunk and spendthrift.
With its revolving doors and peep holes the set plays an important role in increasing the air of corruption and paranoia in the play. The troupe as well as well skilled and speedy with the script were equally able with the set, transforming the stage while in the foreground other performers strummed, sang and, on occasion, danced.
A lively exhilerating piece from a fantastic company doing Adrian Mitchell proud.
Reviewer: Seth Ewin