"Government Inspector fails to fire"
by Andy MOSELEY for remotegoat on 17/08/12

In a small Russian town the Mayor and his officials panic when they find out a Government Inspector is due to visit. They panic even more when they think he's already there. The said inspector is moved from the hotel that has grown tired of him asking for credit, and into the Mayor's house where locals fall over themselves to offer him bribes. The only problem is he is not actually the Government Inspector, he is Khlestakov, a civil servant of no particular standing. By the time he's discovered, he's left the town a lot richer than when he arrived.

The Government Inspector is a classic satirical play exposing political corruption, greed and stupidity. Sadly, in spite of some good performances, this production failed to do justice to the script. Gavin McAlinden has a strong reputation, but his direction gave the actors limited chances to show what they might be capable of.

The strongest moments came when actors had the spotlight to themselves. Emily Florence Blanchard as Khlestakov, was at her best when entertaining the town folk with fictional stories of his skills as a writer and influence at the highest levels of Government. Emma Jane Sullivan as the Mayor similarly gave her strongest performance when delivering lengthy monologues that allowed her to begin developing her character. There were other similar moments, but they were few and far between.

The decision to cast females in almost all the male parts and vice versa, may have been through necessity, with the balance of female and male cast members almost the mirror image of the characters, but did provide an opportunity to highlight the absurd behaviour of the townsfolk. The production failed to take the opportunity. A few characters were mysteriously played by their own gender, reducing the effect of the idea, and several actors only got into the characters at surface level at best. The wife and daughter of the Mayor, played by Jack Badley and Simon Brandon, offered the promise of scene stealing cameos when they first appeared, but by the second act they had largely transformed into pantomime ugly sisters, rather than caricatured mother and daughter, and the joke quickly wore thin.

The play as a whole never convinced. It didn't feel as if this was a real corrupt Mayor and a real corrupt set of officials. It felt like a collection of actors playing parts, with a lack of any real interaction between them. Several of the cast seemed determined to deliver as many lines as possible to the audience rather than the person they were meant to be speaking to, and every spoken thought was delivered as if explaining the plot, rather than showing how their minds were working.

The inadequacies of a very basic set were cruelly exposed on a stage that was far too large for it, and added to the feeling that you were watching a rehearsal that still had some way to go before becoming the finished product.

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