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Review: The Government Inspector At The Everyman Theatre

DAVID HARROWER’S wonderfully irreverent adaptation of Gogol’s satirical farce was made in 2011 for the Young Vic and Warwick Arts Centre. Director Roxanna Silbert has brought it to the stage with breath-taking energy in this new coproduction from Birmingham Rep and Ramps on the Moon.

Pre-show music that could have come straight from the soundtrack of Grand Budapest Hotel helps to set the scene in the slightly tired lobby of a once opulent hotel, somewhere in a forgotten backwater of Russia. Ti Green’s set is a multi-level skeleton affair with staircases, the revolving door beloved of farce and a fully functional elevator, all as transparent as the duplicity of the play’s key characters.

David Carlyle plays the manic Mayor, thrown into a spin by the suggestion that a Government Inspector is coming to town, or may already be in their midst. When Robin Morrissey’s dapper but itinerant Khlestakov turns up he’s immediately taken for the inspector and soon learns to capitalise on the mistake, with the whole town falling at his feet.

Carlyle and Morrisey are joined in the central sextet by Kiruna Stamell and Francesca Mills, who give towering performances as the mayor’s wife and daughter, Anna and Maria. Both fall for Khlestakov in a big way and literally hurl themselves at him at times. Michael Keane brings wry wit to Khlestakov’s servant Osip, while Sophie Stone is hugely expressive as the postmaster with a rather too keen interest in the contents of the mail.

There is also a splendid double act from Stephen Collins and Rachel Denning as Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky, a pair of local squires who propagate the idea that Khlestakov is the inspector. They display gleeful relish in the quick-fire delivery and the characters’ propensity to finish each other’s sentences.

Ramps on the Moon is a consortium of six major theatres and strategic partner Graeae Theatre Company, whose work in making theatre accessible to all is ramped up to a new level in this production. The cast of deaf, disabled and non-disabled performers seamlessly blend signing and audio description into the performance. This adds to the frenetic movement on stage but gives so many additional cues, along with surtitles and projected words and imagery, that the clarity of the storytelling is magnificent.

There is occasional shadowing of characters, in some cases a speaking actor will be followed about by another who is signing their words for them. Elsewhere Judge Lyapkin-Tyapkin, played wordlessly by a signing Jean St Clair, has her spoken dialogue delivered by Rebekah Hinds, who follows along behind. Meanwhile Amanda Wright, playing a police sergeant, has a head-mike which she uses to provide the live audio-description to users’ headsets from the stage, rather than as more usually done from the control booth.

This is high-energy, wonderful farce staged with boundless imagination. The Government Inspector plays at the Everyman, Hope Street until Saturday 11th June and comes highly recommended.

Review by Nigel Smith


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