Theatre review: The Government Inspector, King’s Theatre

LOCAL politicians are vain and corrupt, their officials self-serving and inept. Central government is distant and divorced from reality.


King’s Theatre, Leven Street

Star rating: * * *

The owners of capital are soulless dullards obsessed with immediate profit over the long-term value of anything their ‘property’ might produce or stand for.

There again, we all have our failings. Perhaps the most appropriate response to what is, ultimately, a farce in every sense, is to laugh, reflect, drink, and enjoy the musical interludes whenever they come along.

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You haven’t stumbled into the opinion pages - that was a summary of the themes of The Government Inspector, written by Nikolai Gogol in 1835, satirising corruption in Tsarist Russia.

In a remote town, from which “you could ride for three years in any direction and not reach a foreign country”, local officials get wind that the Government Inspector is on his way.

Frenzied preparations ensue; get the sick out of the hospitals, clean up the books, put out a few poles and dig some holes to give the impression that things are being built.

For all the wit and satire, the central plot is farce and mistaken identity, wherein the man assumed to be said inspector turns out to be an inadvertent imposter.

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There are limits as to how long that core joke can be sustained. So, while the themes are timeless, the production isn’t quite, and a little judicious pruning might have helped the pacing.

That aside, the performances are great, wonderful movement and comic timing, a lot of great lines. The set changes - where several of the cast picks up an instrument and plays a bit of Russian music while the others arrange the stage - are particularly fun.

Scottish director Gerry Mulgrew and Communicado brought similarly lively staging to their Tam O’Shanter at the Fringe and it does the trick here.

There is something about this being brought to the stage in a mixture of the devolved voices of Scotland and Wales that only adds to the topicality and immediacy of a 180-year old Russian farce.

Again: laugh, reflect, drink if you will, and do enjoy those musical interludes.

• Runs ends tomorrow