Preview: The Government Inspector

By Shahnaz Ford talks to Tyler Rainford, director of the Lion Theatre Company’s upcoming production of ‘The Government Inspector’.

 

After the success of sell-out show, POSH, would you say you are taking The Lion Theatre Company in a dramatically different direction with The Government Inspector?

It’s safe to say its now time for something completely different! Posh was a great comedy but it goes without saying that this will be a very different kettle of fish. The show, of course, is a farce, and offers a contrasting style of direction. However, what both shows offer is a biting social critique in their own ways.

 

Not many people will have heard of it. How would you encapsulate the show in one sentence?

I’ll have to go with the Russian proverb: ‘If your face is twisted, there’s no use in blaming the mirror.’ That’s the tag-line for the show anyway…

 

What are you most excited about with this play?

I suppose it’s the excitement of finally seeing the finished product on stage, as that will be really rewarding. Especially because we’ve all been working so well together (both socially and professionally) throughout the process.

 

Why are you especially drawn to Gogol?

As some Russian Literature enthusiasts will know, Gogol is the father of modern Russian theatre, and a literary giant in his own right.  His plays and short stories are so powerful for me; despite being set in a 19th Century Russia, in an age and region which many of us may find so distant, there is still a resonance with contemporary society that cannot be ignored.

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If you were to start the process again, what would you do differently?

Time permitting, I would have preferred to have started the process with a few more work-shops in physical theatre. Particularly influenced by the practice of Vsevolod Meyerhold. Obviously I was only using Meyerhold as a starting point, rather than fully adhering to his theatrical doctrine, but his etudes in ‘Biomechanics’ could have been used effectively to help the cast engage with the style of direction I was hoping to take.

 

D.S. Mirsky claims there are no love interests in the farce, and that contributes to its success; do you think this is accurate?

Entirely! This is a good point actually. There are no ‘love interests’ as such, but that does not mean that there are no romances. The play is so rooted in the idea of wearing masks, and pretending to be someone you’re not, that the fallacy of romance is perpetuated by some of the characters later in the play. But it’s definitely not ‘romance’ in the usual sense.

 

Corruption is an inescapable element of the text; have you been guilty of any such misdeeds? Or are you aware of others who have been?

Once the cast was finalised and rehearsals began, it was clear from our first social that the corruption of the play would infiltrate our social life…

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It sounds like you’ve been pretty ambitious with your ideas; have you had to scrap any plans because they’ve not been feasible?

Thankfully the cast have been remarkably receptive and enthusiastic to take on my ideas. Of course, there have been difficulties with some minor specific points of direction; these have required reconsideration from my initial planning stages. However, I am delighted that the core vision is almost entirely in tact from when I started thinking about the process two years ago.

 

What would you say your directorial style is?

I’m sure the cast will agree – I hardly ever sit down in rehearsals, I’m always in their faces and running around like a mad thing… This is because I don’t want the energy to drop in rehearsals, and it seems unfair to demand so much from the cast if I’m just sitting there. So I’m in the habit of pacing… and conducting with my hands… It seems to work though!

 

If you couldn’t have directed ‘The Government Inspector’, what would have chosen instead? Why?

Well I’ve wanted to direct this place for a long time. However, if I was forced to pick something else, I am thinking of directing another farce by Georges Feydeau next year; he was one of the masterminds of French farce, and it would be great to work with another large cast after the pleasure I’ve had working with this one! Alternatively, I’m also keen to experiment taking the absurd physicality of this play even further, and potentially direct ‘The Chairs’ by Eugene Ionesco.

 

Do you think your artistic vision will alienate those who do not consider themselves ‘theatrical’?

I would sincerely hope not! This is still a farce, so I would be very surprised if the physicality of the piece would do anything to alienate the audience from what is being said. Hopefully, it’ll actually make what’s happening on stage more exciting to those who don’t usually go to the theatre (and keep the energy of the piece alive)! For me, I hope the audience will pick up on the more choreographed moments of the play; it’s been a challenge to experiment with this form of almost choreographed theatre, and I hope it’s appreciated.

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You can see ‘The Government Inspector’ at the Assembly Rooms, 29th – 31st January.

Photographs: Shahnaz Ford.

Image: Alissa Cooper & Shahnaz Ford.

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