Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The Government Inspector" - February 2010

About an hour into the show tonight I'd already drafted my post about it: "The live musical interludes during set changes were very entertaining. The play? Not so much." And that was going to be it. I couldn't summon up enough enthusiasm to give it much more thought, and making an escape at the interval was a definite consideration. But then, one single, brilliant, visual gag about a card game convinced me there was enough potential to stick around for. And I'm glad I did, as the second act was much, much more to my liking.

Rather than the satire I was hoping for, and as described on the Tron website, the first half felt firmly in the realms of farce - with plenty of exaggerated performances and physical comedy. Of course, I should really have expected as much from a play based on a case of mistaken identity. Only in the moments when the characters broke the fourth wall to address the audience in much calmer tones did there seem to be much subtlety to the script. To be fair, it was generating a good amount of sporadic laughter in the audience, but equally I felt I wasn't alone in being distinctly unamused.

After the interval, the show rallied greatly and just seemed... well, smarter. Perhaps due to an increased amount of asides to the audience or a more apparent willingness to update the text with current references, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But even then, it felt as if it would have benefited from an even more liberal approach - not to mention a considerable amount of red ink through the script. It's a big ask for any show looking for laughs to carry a run time of 2 hours 45 (including interval) and I couldn't help feel that Gogol's original, or this adaptation by Adrian Mitchell, were crying out for an Oran Mor 'classic cuts' style paring down to an hour and played with a cast of 3 or 4.

Director Gerry Mulgrew does bring several nice touches to the production including a fabulous troika ride, but there aren't the same bursts of creativity I enjoyed so much in his "Tam O'Shanter" in Perth last year.

For me, John Bett's performance as the local governor terrified his corruption is about to be exposed was over-the-top, but I'll freely admit that's down to personal taste - I almost always prefer my humour played straight. Andy Clark was excellent as the chancer who makes the most of the townsfolks' mistaken belief in his importance, while Gerda Stevenson & Kirstin McLean share some great moments as the governor's wife and daughter. But for me the most impressive performance of the evening was Alasdair Macrae's wonderfully dry delivery as the "Inspector's" manservant Osip (and also as the town's postmaster).

Given the general tone of it, I don't think this was ever going to be a show that really worked for me, but I suspect those who enjoy a good farce will love it.

We received our tickets for the show through our membership of the Tron's Patrons scheme which we thoroughly recommend for anyone who is a regular attendee at the Tron.

The Government Inspector is a co-production between Communicado and the Tron. It runs at the Tron until 27 February and then tours Scotland.
Image by Kirsty Nichol used with permission