Review: The Government Inspector

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Abundant energy and an evening full of laughs, Foot of the Hill Theatre Company’s production of The Government Inspector, by Nikolai Gogol, is a masterpiece! From lighting to set design, every detail was thoroughly thought through, and a transparent sense of location is created. Set in a small Russian village, a Mayor (Oliver Grieves), and other villagers, including the Magistrate (Niamh Williams) and Director of Education (Khaliun Mark), find out that an undercover government inspector is going to pay them visit. They quickly identify who the inspector is when a mysterious man arrives. They plan to cover up their wrong doings, however there is a strong chance that their initial thoughts on who the inspector is, are wrong! Filled with hilarity and political satire, The Government Inspector is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The play opens with an address from the Mayor, who the audience soon learns is a very corrupt man! It begins in his house, and the set is dressed with a mahogany table and bookshelf stage right, and a brown leather sofa stage left. It perfectly sets the scene but also is a flexible space that easily doubles as a hotel and bedroom! This space brilliantly compliments the use of movement and direction. The whole stage is used, leaving no dead space. Not one area feels crowded, and it also never feels empty. Executing this is easier said than done and directors and should be commended for their decisions. It is essential that all space is used to make characters decisions seem in the moment and natural, which gives this farce the subtle hints of naturalism that it needs in order to not feel completely over the top!

As an ensemble, the cast creates fabulously larger than life reactions

Not only is the use of space good, but the movements and physicality are exceptional. As an ensemble, the cast creates fabulously larger-than-life reactions. Gasps are exaggerated, falls are flamboyant and facial reactions are stellar! The cast is not afraid to play to the elements that a farce requires and as a result, the comical moments are superb! The physicality is exuberant and it seems as if, at any moment, you could take a photo and have a perfectly created freeze frame!

Other parts that add comical elements to the play, are the character dynamics. The Mayor’s wife (Saachi Bajaj) and daughter (Olivia Smith), had a fantastic relationship, based off jealousy! As dramatic as each other, any moment the two share the stage, laughter pours from the audience! Both had fallen head over heels for the mystery man travelling through their village, so much of their stage time was spent arguing over him. An exceptional pair, and their performances are glorious!

All the performers are brilliant, and each clearly understood their character, which is made clear through their mannerisms. However, at times the dialogue is rushed, which meant that some lines were lost. It creates some moments of confusion, but the actor’s commitment to their characters and knowledge of the story meant that the audience is quickly back on track!

The physicality is exuberant and it seems as if, at any moment, you could take a photo and have a perfectly created freeze frame

Another great element of the play is the lighting. The play is staged in St Mary’s dining hall with a raised platform creating a small rectangle stage. Often not having the luxuries that come from using a theatre can mean that some actors are not lit and lighting choices become limited, but this is not the case for The Government Inspector! Every actor is illuminated and the lighting is fun and inventive. With a mix of colours, the lighting is not distracting, it only adds to the play.

A marvellous play packed with liveliness, The Government Inspector is expertly accomplished. What is most charming, is that this cast and production team have clearly formed strong bonds and they share the same passion for the show as each other. It is a wonderfully funny production that has you hooked the whole way through!

Image credit: Foot of the Hill Theatre Company

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