Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Government Inspector, Belvoir/Malthouse

This is just plain funny. It's hysterical. And to say why, to summarise, is to give away large chunks of the jokes. No, it does not bear a lot of resemblance to Gogol's play ... although, having said that, it does eventually veer back towards the ostensible source material - but as a pure, unadulterated comedy, this plays incredibly well.

It's not obvious that this should be the case. Simon Stone's productions from "Thysestes" to "Hamlet" have, occasionally, had their moments of bitter humour, but this is an entirely different beast - a spoof of actors, of the haphazard process of creating theatre, and the hopes that somehow, somewhere, it'll all work out okay on the night.

The cast, too, aren't always noticeably comedic actors. Robert Menzies, who's strength at playing serious, haunted, tragic figures is undeniable, translates his mournful nature into hilarious pessimism. Greg Stone, so disturbingly moving last year as Polonius, takes the hysterical perskittiness in a different direction. Mitchell Butel, Gareth Davies and Zahra Newman have more recent comic form, but push their comic personas in intriguing new varieties in several new directions.

Does it compromise by not bringing across Gogol's original? Well, yes and no. The political satire of Gogol's play is pretty minimal, really - it's about how the easiest way to fool people is to make sure they want to be fooled in the first place. And that carries through in this new variation on a theme - while letting the comedy reign free and wild.

Very recomended.

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