Review – The Government Inspector

Mar 27 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  hilarious and vicious

King’s Theatre: Tue 26 – Sat 30 March 2013
Guest review by Irene Brown

Timeless and timeous comedy from the redoubtable Communicado in this latest version of Nikolai Gogol’s classic tale of corruption, produced in collaboration with Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

The sleekit steaming open of a letter in Communicado's hilarious and vicious Government Inspector. Production photo © Communicado

The sleekit steaming open of a letter in Communicado’s hilarious and vicious Government Inspector. Production photo © Communicado

In a small town that thinks itself too insignificant for its shenanigans to be noticed by Tsarist Russia’s central government, the city fathers have the wind up.

Thanks to the sleekit steaming open of a letter by the local Postmaster, rumour spreads that a Government Inspector is in town.

Panic ensues as the town officials’ double dealings rise to their collective vision like soured milk in tea. When someone who fits the perceived model of the dreaded incognito inspector is spotted, they pull out all the greasy stops to ensure he sees the mask and not the rotting face of fraud.

The threat of exposure lays bare the officials’ human weaknesses and the false Inspector, the St Petersburg fop Khlestakov (Oliver Lavery) who will neither work nor want, takes full advantage of them all.

The theme of mistaken identity has been a vehicle for the exposure of hypocrites and sycophants since Molière and was famously used in Fawlty Towers to great effect in the episode with the food inspector.

In Communicado’s version the characters take the audience into their confidence throughout with asides that reveal the true feelings of these self-serving toadies. Schadenfreude is to the fore as the bureaucrats are individually fleeced and utterly humiliated by the opportunistic Khlestakov – and the crooks are held in hilarious frozen horror as the real Inspector’s arrival is imminent.

Rumbustious incarnation

This version of Gogol’s 1835 play was adapted by the late Adrian Mitchell, to whom this performance is dedicated. Maybe this adaptation needs a more intimate venue than that of the King’s theatre, as the first Act feels a bit wooden and pedestrian, lacking the verve, panache and swaggering gallussness of the 2010 production. Not until Act 2, does it reveal the previous rumbustious incarnation in spite of Gerry Mulgrew’s artful direction.

However, the highly comic dialogue carries the day. The semi-oval, wooden beamed and slatted set that hinges and opens to allow the comings and goings is bathed in a pre-revolutionary red light between scene changes. Impressively , the cast play Russian style tunes on a variety of instruments at each change of set with the renowned cellist Wendy Weatherby adding her talents. The split second gambling scene and the sleigh ride illusion are sheer brilliance and the appearance of the false bearded merchants is a delightful piece of shuffling comic acting.

Buy the script:

Barrie Hunter as the gossipy Bobchinsky adds a music hall style – with a hint of John Grieve – and George Drennan as the Charity Commissioner brings John Laurie to the stage. Pauline Knowles as Anna the Governor’s wife and Kate Quinnell as her daughter, Marya, give fine comic performances with more (rather lovely) costume changes than anyone else on stage.

The flyer shows a wad of money being offered to potential audience members but no bribes are needed to go and see this salutary show.

Running time 2 hrs 40 mins
King’s Theatre
Tue 26 – Sat 30 March 2013
7.30pm (Sat mat 2.30pm).
Details on the King’s Theatre website:

The Government Inspector on tour:

26-30 March Edinburgh
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
2-3 April Stirling
01786 466666 Book online
5 April Inverness
Eden Court
01463 239841 Book online
6 April Greenock
Beacon Arts Centre
01475 723723 Book online
8-9 April Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
12/13 April Hexham
Queen’s Hall
01434 652477 Book online
16 April Berwick Upon Tweed
01289 330 999 Book online
17-19 April Dundee
Dundee Rep
01382 223530 Book online
20 April Kendal
Brewery Arts Centre
01539 725 133 Book online


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