The Government Inspector is a comedy based in Russia, The Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with Ramps On The Moon present a contemporary adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s sensational play.
David Harrower has superbly adapted the script, the modernisation of the language is hilariously witty and the actor’s slick comedy timing does the script justice. It is the story of a small Russian town who are expecting a Government Inspector, the mayor becomes frantic, trying to organise everything to impress the inspector. When young Khlestakov runs up a rather large hotel room bill, the mayor automatically assumes he is the inspector. Khlestakov uses this to his advantage as he is in need of some money, therefore he allows the townspeople to schmooze him whilst hatching a plan to accumulate some money.
The staging is equisitely designed by Ti Green, the art deco style set frames the stage to create a lobby, an open space in which all the action occurs. The simplicity of the set allows the lighting to play a huge part in the storytelling, with the use of expressive lighting, both transitions and break-out moments of thought by the characters are highlighted.
The theatre company have emphasised the importance of accessible theatre, their production contains sign language and captions. Instead of the sign language being an accessory, it is integrated into the action which is highly effective as the interpreters become part of the production as opposed to standing at the side. With the recent conversation of lack of diversity in the arts, this performance really breaks down barriers. It incorporates captioning into the performance which is part of the performance, not a distraction, therefore making the production accessible for all.
Performance interpreters Becky Barry and Daryl Jackson terrifically master the ability to not only interpret the performance, but use strong characterisation to do so. Similarly Jean St Clair who plays Lyapkin-Tyapkin flawlessly captures the humour in her silent character that uses sign language to interpret what the other characters are saying.
David Carlyle leads the cast as the mayor, he brilliantly encapsulates the humour of the panic-stricken mayor, his distress creates an abundance of comedic moments in the show, particularly when he breaks out into his own thoughts. Alongside him, the mayor’s wife Anna played by Kiruna Stamell is an impeccable actress, she is utterly convincing as the saucy, over-confident and outspoken mayor’s wife. Francesca Mills plays her daughter Maria, their relationship is excellent, the sense of competition and snappy arguments between them are notably funny.
The stand-out performances are Robin Morrissey and Michael Keane who play Khlestakov and his servant Osip. Morrissey marvellously portrays the conceited upper-class gentleman who impersonates the inspector. The more he takes advantage of, as the mayor is trying to impress him, the more extravagant his character becomes. Keane’s depiction of Khlestakov’s servant is tremendous as his sarcastic tone towards Khlestakov is immensely amusing.
Aside from being a remarkable performance from a mixed mobility cast, the production itself is exceptional. The Government Inspector is a creative and pacy performance with an outstanding cast, it is a breath of fresh air in terms of taking the necessary steps in order to make theatre more accessible and diverse.
The Government Inspector is on at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre until the 26th of March and tickets can be found here.