Review: The Government Inspector, Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with Ramps On The Moon, New Wolsey Theatre, to April 16
- Credit: Archant
Have you ever had one of those moments, watching a comedian or a sketch show on television, when you are suddenly struck by guilt and embarrasment?
When the act has strayed from funny to cruel, and you find yourself laughing?
Award winning Little Britain did that to me; its treatment of disabled people made we feel dirty, and I switched it off.
Our attitudes to illness, handicaps and disabilities say a lot about us.
Mine has certainly changed since I have seen the NHS through the eyes of a patient.
But disabled people do face many challenges, in life, not least the attitude of “normal” people to them.
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This regional theatres production is part of Ramps On The Moon, which celebrates the wide range of acting talent in the country.
Shows like this prove that disability doesn’t have to be a handicap in the performing arts.
The Government Inspector is a dark comedy originally by Russian playwright Nikolai Gogol, which deals with greed, petty bureaucracy and abuse of position.
It is a sharp satire which is still relevant today.
This production, an absolute romp, is a fast-paced modern treatment from a company which challenges our perceptions and prejudices.
There were wheelchairs, white sticks and guide dogs in the theatre, and the cast including a range of actors with disabilities. Signing was an integral part of the performance and sub-titles screened at the back of the stage.
But it wasn’t stuffy or stilted in any way.
It was a delightful evening’s entertainment with lots of fine performances.
The story revolved around the small town mayor, played by David Carlyle; self-serving and autoctratic, and paranoid that the inspector from St Petersburg is coming to root out corruption and expose his scams.
Those running the local school, hospital, postal service and the police are equally worried and a plan is hatched: to find the inspector and divert, bribe or corrupt him.
Carlyle is supberb in the role, ranting and raging constanly at his supposed enemies and demanding action from the town officials.
I notice Tony Hancock once played the role, and I could see how it would have been ideal for him. I remember Hancock in “they are all out to get me” speeches in his Half Hour programme.
There is a big performance too as the mayor’s wife Anna by Kiruna Stamell and Francesca Mills as his daughter Maria, who both have eyes for the supposed inspector Khlestakov (Robin Morrissey). I hesitated there, not wanting to offend.
Morrissey is very good as the penniless visitor who learns there is money to be made, and pleasures to be had, if he plays his cards right.
This production has a great ensemble cast, too many to mention.
There are lots of laughs.Just occasionally I had to a stop and ask myself, am I being fair? But I let myself go.
I was laughing with them and enjoying their performances. A lot more people will be doing the same on their tour.