A GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR
by Nikolai Gogol adapted by Deborah McAndrew.
Tour to 1 December 2012.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 November at New Vic Theatre Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Meets all the targets, ticks all the boxes.
There’s something about civic corruption that brings out the comic best in Northern Broadsides. Blake Morrison’s The Cracked Pot, an adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist’s 1800s German comedy The Broken Jug was hilarious. So is Deborah McAndrew’s version of Nikolai Gogol’s angrier Revizor (Inspector), from some thirty years later.
Whereas Pot separated the two sides of the Pennines, McAndrew relocates Gogol’s remote Russian town to somewhere probably on an indeterminate border between Yorkshire and Lancashire. And while Morrison kept to an historical period, this show goes for a look and feel that’s 1950s, when the squalid conditions of hospital, school etc in such a place are just about believable, with up-to-the-year references to targets, criteria and Westminster politicians’ pretended passion for pasties all worked seamlessly in to her comic spin.
Whirling along on Dawn Allsopp’s craftily deconstructible set, redolent with municipal and social humdrummery, the cast have magnificent fun with the local bigwig caricatures, the men all self-excusing corruption, while back at the Council Leader’s home are the social pretensions of Susie Emmett’s faux-elegant posturing as his wife, and the gum-chewing ‘Whatever’ disengagement with which Jill Cardo contrasts their daughter’s socially aspiring name.
Howard Chadwick’s full-jowled Belcher, dressed-down or making-up to the nonentity they take for an important government figure, admirably leads a procession of equally venal but less assertive bribe-givers. Director Conrad Nelson, McAndrew’s fellow-Broadside veteran, ingeniously proves that where there’s muck there’s brass, replacing the company’s once-trademark clog-dancing with a brass band (who’d have thought British theatre had so many fine actors who’re also accomplished brass-blowers?).
Jon Trenchard works hard as the stranger in town, but his camp, dandified manner and appearance can wear thin, though it’s usefully earthed by Tim Frances’s ever-hungry servant (he should meet Frances from Richard Bean’s One Man; Two Guvnors, another reinvigorated classic comedy currently touring). Nelson incorporates the instruments almost as characters in the comedy’s dark side, where the victims of corruption appear and are (sometimes literally) beaten away. Until a final sting in the tail adds to Gogol’s horrified tableau as the real inspector calls with a piece of sharp doubling.
Councillor Tony Belcher: Howard Chadwick.
Amos Fudge: Andrew Price.
Councillor Phillipa Strawberry/Constable Whistler: Clara Darcy.
Councillor Luke Pickles/Constable Snout: Andy Cresswell.
Johnny Pepys/Chief Superintendent Lugg: Anthony Hunt.
Annie Belcher: Susie Emmett.
Mary Antonia Constance Belcher: Jill Cardo.
Bob Sidebottom: Kraig Thornber.
Bob Longbottom: Andy Cryer.
Widdowson/Michael/Waiter: Richard Colvin.
Jonathan Alexander Snapper: Jon Trenchard.
Dr Beattie/Frank: Tim Frances.
Director/Composer: Conrad Nelson.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Tim Skelly.
Musical Director: Rebekah Hughes.
Choreographer: Matthew Bugg.
Assistant director: Andy Cryer.
13-17 Nov Tue; Thu-Sat 7.30pm Wed 5.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2pm Liverpool Playhouse 0151 709 4776 www.everymanplayhouse.com
20-24 Nov 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Viaduct Theatre Halifax 01422 255266 www.deanclough.com
27 Nov-1 Dec 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 2.30pm York Theatre Royal 01904 623568 www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk