In a Russian town, sometime in the nineteenth century, a crooked mayor (Alex Franklin), is all powerful. Then, on the wind of gossip, he hears of a man staying at a local hotel who never leaves the room or pays the bills. He must be a government inspector! From that moment, the town’s officials fret and wonder what the inspector will do to them. Experiencing painful paranoia, they decide to visit the inspector and treat him like a king. Cue Khlestakov (Comrie Saville-Ferguson) a middle-class man who enjoys the finer things, but doesn’t have money for them. Luckily, Khlestakov is happy to play the inspector and run with the false identity to a point where he almost believes he is a government employee. The question isn’t so much, will he be found out, more like, how far can he push the townspeople?
J. B. Priestley wrote An Inspector Calls (1945), which had its premiere in the Soviet Union, and his work owes a great deal to Gogol’s play. Priestley’s is the superior work, but Gogol’s satire is far funnier.
The play’s shining light came from the performance of Saville-Ferguson as the mistaken inspector. From the second he stormed the stage, he owned every inch of the boards and commanded the audience’s attention. He dominated the theatre as he marched around, throwing himself from seat to seat. He resembled Rik Mayall, with that swaggering confidence only the boldest of actors have. He captivated the audience so much so, that when he fluffed a line, he told us, “That was wrong”, smiled, and got a belly laugh from the auditorium.
I really enjoyed this play. The acting had confidence, charisma and an understanding that the audience must be entertained. An excellent performance of a funny play.
The Government Inspector played at Cambridge’s The Corpus Playroom between Tuesday 25th April to Saturday 29th April 2017.