dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
When the govnerment inspector arrives who is fooling who?
Gogol's classic comedy of corruption in a small town in Russia is given a modern makeover in this new production by Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
When the Mayor learns a government inspector is to visit the town, he orders an immediate clear up that shows just how corrupt the regime has become. Patients need to be moved out of the hospital, teachers need to teach, the law needs to dispense justice – and all the poor of the town are to be kept hidden so their real grievances are not aired.
Gogol's The Government Inspector at Birmingham Rep
But what the Mayor doesn't realise is that the man he is pandering to is not the real government inspector but a fraud aiming to fleece all these civic leaders of as much money as possible.
Adapted by David Harrower and directed by Roxana Silbert, the contemporary nature of the production makes this world in which a wad of notes and a greased palm can cover all sins particularly relevant. Designed by Ti Green, the set is ingenious with its centre point a revolving door through which the greedy enter and re-enter while the poor enter through the side doors – they have no place in this world.
The production, which tours after its run at The Rep, is the first in the Ramps On The Moon project which sees a consortium of theatres joining together to create drama which is fully integrated for disabled and non-disabled performers. This gives the production added energy as signers and surtitles are integrated into the action – sometimes there is so much happening on stage you don't quite know where to look.
Exposing corruption in a small Russian town
David Carlyle is fantastic as the grasping Mayor. His energy is incredible as he races around the stage, shouting and gesticulating at just about everyone. Despite him playing a totally dislikeable character somehow he still manages to win over the audience to have some sympathy for him. Robin Morrissey plays the foppish Khlestakov to perfection – one moment a whining loser who feels the world is against him because he can't pay a bill and the next a fount of hyperbole whose claims of influence are so fantastic that nobody but someone who wanted to believe could be taken in.
The Mayor's domestic situation is one of the strongest sources of humour as his wife (Kiruna Stamell) and daughter (Francesca Mills) vie for the inspector's attention.
Perhaps above all this production shows what can be achieved through fully integrated theatre. The production is slick, it's fun, it's brilliantly performed and it holds together really well. It will be interesting to see how the remainder of the Ramps On The Moon project progresses.
The Government Inspector plays Birmingham Rep until March 26. It then tours:
6 – 16 April at New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich (01743 295900 / wolseytheatre.co.uk)
20 – 30 April at West Yorkshire Playhouse (0113 213 7700 / wyp.org.uk)
4 – 14 May at Nottingham Playhouse (0115 941 9419 / nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk)
18 – 28 May at Theatre Royal, Stratford East (020 8534 0310 / stratfordeast.com)
1 – 11 June at Liverpool Everyman (0151 709 4776 / everymanyplayhouse.com)
17 – 25 June at Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (0114 249 6000 / sheffieldtheatres.co.uk)