Birmingham and Touring
Birmingham Rep in association with Ramps on the Moon
THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR: Nikolai Gogol, adapted by David Harrower
Birmingham Rep to 26 March then touring
0121 236 4455
Touring to 25 June
Runs 2h 40m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, Birmingham Rep, 25 March 2016
This Birmingham Rep-Ramps on the Moon production is a rare opportunity to see this classic satire from Russia. Director, Roxana Silbert, with her team have struck exactly the right comedy note. All playing is broad, it has a comic book style that perfectly merges comedic delight with the big stick of lampoon. Silbert, with designer Ti Green, have created a setting that is both witty and always serves the play, often with outrageous naughtiness.
For this production the Rep co-produces with Ramps in the Moon, working with actors with various disabilities. In David Harrower’s sharply observed script the result is a world of quite dotty people, created by a group of actors celebrated the richness of difference. Many jokes provoke us, daring us not to laugh; there is frequently evident a kind of disability humour (clearly a close cousin to the better known Jewish humour.)
And should this sound all too politically correct to you, then the fault is yours. The proof of this pudding is definitely in the visual and audio eating.
The production flaunts a strong ensemble with glorious performances all round. There is a terrific, terrible trio leading the race though.
David Carlyle’s Mayor is richly small-town seedy. But how we adore him as Carlyle’s warm invention leads his community into more and more foolishness. Although drawn in big bold brush-strokes he feels very real, we have to admit we see ourselves a little in him. Robin Morrissey creates Klestakov, the rascal con-man. His good looks and charm bring hind legs and donkeys to mind – could we be conned by him? The world is still full of people who are. Kiruna Stamell creates Ann, the Mayor’s wife. Stamell’s great comedic talents come to the fore as she impresses us (well, sort of) with her French elegance – oooh, la, la, tres elegante.
Gogol reveals a rich vein of human folly in the play, excellently reflected in this production. If the play falters, it is the fault of Gogol’s less than workable structure. Not a lot the team can do about this – except boldly wield a large surgical knife around the text half-way through the second half. Which I hope they do if circumstances make it possible.
[Credits to follow]