The Government Inspector

The Government Inspector is adapted from Nikolai Gogol's 1836 masterpiece of the same name and directed by Patrick Myles.

By using the same title as the original version, it is inescapable that both scripts will be compared, and this may be where the current production shoots itself in the foot.

It is reported that the original caused quite a stir for calling out the greed and corruption of the Russian government. This production, which markets itself as "a comedy about hypocrites, hysterics and hustlers", is in essence a case of mistaken identity, drawn out over two hours.

Overall, it feels incredibly watered down, an interesting choice given that present-day politics have become so outrageous, farcical and bewildering. Modern-day audiences barely flinch when presented with such thematic explorations which now seem way less controversial and more casual.

Granted, the show is packed with infinite jokes and slapstick moments, but the extent to which this happens makes the humour feel forced down one’s throat, lacking sophistication in their delivery. There is no breathing space, leaving very little set-up for all the jokes to pay off.

Movement director Kate Tydman and fight director John Sandeman choreograph hilarious sequences that happen so frequently, the production feels predictable and unvaried after a while.

Much credit goes to the cast for fighting to make every moment the best it can be. They bring explosive performances to the stage, their energy driving the entire production. It is their personal charm as TV stars, and  their unwavering dedication to the work and supporting one another, that keeps the audience rooted to their seats.

Ironically, there may be more opportunity for everyone to shine if the script is halved, thus allowing them to mean what they say, rather than delivering the lines at breakneck speed.

Towards the end of the play, Governor Swashprattle (Dan Skinner) jumps offstage, thus breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience. “You are laughing at yourselves!” He shouts at the awkwardly silent crowd.

In all fairness, throw in a few song parodies and spectacular set changes, cast a male actor in drag to play the ambitious Mrs Swashprattle, and this show could have a second life as a decent festive pantomime. Melanie Jane Brookes' costume designs are lavish and over-the-top. An actor wearing a mascot of a mouse chases Governor Swashprattle around at random moments.

Like most British politicians, The Government Inspector is full of promise, but does not actually deliver.

This show was reviewed on the 11th May 2024 at the Marylebone Theatre where the show runs until the 15th June 2024.  Tickets available here: The Government Inspector at Marylebone Theatre

Review written by Penelope Bao


Photo credit: Oliver King

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