Wednesday, June 22, 2011


3 June - 9 July (2011) - The Young Vic

Julian Barratt stars as the crooked Mayor of a backwater Russian town in David Harrower and Richard Jones' zany, 2011 take on Nikolai Gogol's classic 1836 satire The Government Inspector. Allegedly based on an anecdote mentioned to Gogol by Pushkin, the play's set in a one-horse Russian town deep in the country. News spreads that a government inspector's on his way, dressed incognito, to investigate the town and report back to the bigwigs in Saint Petersburg.
In a panic, the Mayor assembles the troops in a last minute attempt to sweep things under the rug...

A stranger from Saint Petersburg checks into the Inn. The Mayor and his corrupt officials assume it must be the dreaded government inspector. Instead, the young outsider is Khlestakov, a dandy civil servant low on luck (and high on something, surely?).
The Mayor rushes to greet him in his best hat and uniform, his ceremonial sword polished and ready to impress. At first, Khlestakov doesn't realise his own good fortune. But soon enough, he's milking it for all it's worth - including helping himself to the Mayor's MILF wife and leggy young daughter.

I went in expecting fake Russian accents. Instead, it's English accents all round. Barratt is deadpan, pained and uncomfortable-looking as The Mayor, Smack the Pony's Doon Mackichan does a good job as his lustful wife and Kyle Soller's completely over the top (at one point he even fell off stage) as opportunistic civil servant Khlestakov. The action's all pretty weird and modern, including two giant rats, pig noses and a weird animal invasion.

The most striking thing about Harrower and Jones' Government Inspector is the surreal, perspective-heavy set design and bizarre, psychedelic lighting. As well as the play's creative use of space and the unusual costumes. The sets were designed by Evening Standard Award-winning set designer
Miriam Buether. And the costumes were put together by Tony Award-nominated costume designer Nicky Gillibrand.

Hunched, wearing a beard and a dirty old vest - the only really Russian-looking of the lot - Barratt does a good job distancing himself from Howard Moon. But every now and again he delivers a line straight out of The Boosh. The rest of the cast were all pretty on form as well - especially woman-playing-a-man Amanda Lawrence as the Postmaster!

The Government Inspector's on at The Young Vic 'til July 9.

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