Review by Emma Whitelaw
THERE is town pride; and then there is just plain egocentric
stupidity. The people of this small provincial town are, Im
afraid, very much driven by the latter.
Nikolai Gogols The Government Inspector, at The
Union Theatre, is a farcical comedy that exposes the likes
of small town bigwigs that are both inept and corrupt.
When the townspeople get word that a government inspector is
to arrive incognito, they fall into a frenzied panic.
The thought that someone of such importance is coming to judge
their town which, by the way, was already in a state of
disarray - is enough to turn their small world upside-down and
Not only are they threatened by the ominous arrival, they have
no idea who he is, or what he shall look like. This soon leads
to a hilarious case of mistaken identity, as a penniless stranger
arrives in town and they all assume that he must, indeed, be the
Pietro Herrera plays the opportunistic Khlestakov brilliantly!
He is incredibly talented, having seen him once before in Love
of a Good Man, I can say he plays the role of a pompous git
His characterization of the mistaken stranger is very similar
to Hugh Lauries idiotic prince, in Blackadder, and got many
a gutsy laugh from the audience.
The eccentric Mayor, superbly played by David Barnaby, is both
blithering and foolish. He gets himself incredibly worked up and
develops a comical stutter.
Although he is quite the tyrant, Barnaby plays him in such a
way that you really feel for the lovable fool.
Jan Hirst plays Anna, his wife. She is manipulative, conniving
and constantly keeping up appearances, so much to the point that
when Khelstakov makes a pass at her, she is more than willing
to take him on.
The townspeople are very much the same; they are all in it for
themselves, clawing at each other to get to the top. It is every
man for himself, but unbeknownst to them, they are making fools
of themselves with their so called hospitality!
Hlestakov plays upon their stupidity and accepts generous bribes
from the townspeople. He weaves elaborate stories of his life
as a government official, accepts a room at the Mayors home,
and even proposes to the Mayor's daughter.
He takes the entire town for a ride, escaping just before his
true identity is revealed. As much as this vexes the town, his
masquerade has merely acted like a mirror in which the town can
see their every flaw.
The set was very minimalistic, yet effective. The costuming was
excellent, as was the sound and lighting.
I particularly liked the use of lighting in the final scene to
depict the rage of the townspeople when they realize theyve
It was an incredibly enjoyable performance by a fabulously talented
cast. Laughs a plenty along with a few lessons learned!
The Government Inspector, written by Nikolai Gogol & directed
by Ben DeWynter. Produced by Sasha Regan. Lighting design by Steve
Miller. Starring David Barnaby, Jan Hirst, Linda Large, Graham
Bowe, William Charlton, Peter Hamilton, Jeffery Kaplow, Dave Short,
Pietro Herrera, Alistair Trevill, Ian Groombridge, Jasper Hone
and Charles Anderson. At The Union Theatre, 204 Union Street,
Southwark, SE1 0LX. From June 1 26, 2004. Times: Tuesday
to Saturday evenings at 7.30pm. Tickets: £10, with concessions
at £8, available from the Box Office: 020 7261 9876.
Photo kindly supplied by stagephoto.co.uk