Classic political satire proves comedy gold - The Rugby Observer

Classic political satire proves comedy gold

Rugby Editorial 6th Jun, 2024 Updated: 6th Jun, 2024   0

IT MAY be nearly 200 years since Gogol penned his great political satire, but it remains as topical as ever, primarily for the simple reason there has always been, and there remains, far too many corrupt greedy idiots in charge.

And such is the case in this unnamed town where its unscrupulous officials are more than a little nervous, having just received word a government inspector is on his way to investigate them. It doesn’t take long to convince themselves the mysterious lavish-spending stranger at the local inn is their government inspector.

Cue all sorts of farcical fun and games in this new adaptation by Nick Le Mesurier, who gives it a refreshingly modern nip and tuck, quoting everyone from Braveheart to Blair and the big guy down the road in Stratford, but while losing none of Gogol’s original bite. Director Matthew Salisbury – who also plays The Mayor – takes Nick’s energetic adaptation and runs with it.

This thoroughly good romp of a production zips along missing no opportunity to lampoon one and all via some good old fashioned unabashed silliness, with the comedy of the story taking precedence over detailed factual accuracy with absolutely no apology.

The scene is cleverly set for the mistaken identity mayhem about to unfold with a Mechanicals-like twist as the cast arrive on stage masquerading as a Russian touring group. The play within a play feel is maintained with Amy Carroll’s open design allowing the cast to wait visibly in the wings before their next scene.

Subtle this production is not, but neither does it pretend to be, from its bawdy seaside postcard humour to marvellously colourful mish-mash period costumes.

We are presented with a jolly ragbag of residents who are all on the make in one way or another.

Salisbury’s Mayor – a role that by his own admission he took on through necessity rather than choice – is the architect in chief of this merry band of self-serving swindlers, and he has no interest whatsoever in improving the town. His simple goal is holding onto power and lining his own pockets.

And he’s prepared to give everything, even his daughter’s hand in marriage, to the suspected Government Inspector Khlestakov, played with increasing gusto by Giles Allen-Bowden as he comes to realise he’s on a nice little earner.

Others have different ambitions. Anna (Cheryl Laverick), wife of the philandering Mayor, and her daughter Maria (Anna Butcher) are both looking for love, while Khlestakov’s servant Osip (Jeremy Heynes) simply wants a decent bed and a square meal.

With the comedy turned up to 11, full advantage is taken by John Fenner’s nerve-wracked schoolteacher Khlopov, while foppish landowners Bobchinsky (Harrison Horsley) and Dobchinsky (Dylan Marshall) spark well off each other.

There may be a rough edge here and there but in no way does it spoil an engaging ever-topical story which is both engagingly, and often hilariously, told.

The Government Inspector runs until June 15. Visit for tickets and full performance details.


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