The Government Inspector

Date 24th October 2014
Society Cobham Players
Venue Cobham Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Rodney Pearson
Musical Director Keith Burgess
Choreographer N/A

Report

Author: Jon Fox

This famous political satire on the corruption rampant in Russian 19th century society still resonates in today's corrupt political world.    That director Rodney Pearson leaned towards fantasy rather than a realistic political satire was entirely sensible, if I may paraphrase his programme notes.

At the heart of this story stood two corrupt characters, the town Mayor and Kalashnikov.    The plot revolves around the supposed Government Inspector (Kalashnikov) and the fact that the town and corrupt officials from the Mayor downwards mistake him for the real Inspector, whom we never actually meet.    Their various ludicrous and often hilarious attempts to ingratiate themselves with the spurious  inspector by offering bribes in return for overlooking their corrupt schemes gave much scope for high comedy.   

Seven of the sixteen players took on two or more parts each, entailing quick costume changes and an ability for the audience to keep up with the rather complicated plot.    With all the comings and goings, bordering on farce, particularly in the fast moving second act, it was as well that Cobham Players had sensibly added an eight foot thrust to the stage giving more room for movement.

Brian Hulme as the Mayor gave a charismatic performance, perfectly bringing out the innate corruption of the man and also his angst when believing his corruption would be found out.   He did need several prompts on the Friday when I attended but can be satisfied with a job well done.

Richard Barrett in the title role, known as Kalashnikov, perfectly encapsulated the bewilderment his character found upon being mistaken for the inspector and conveyed the ease with which he adapted to his fortunate fate and the riches it brought, aided by his own conniving in obtaining bribes.    He is a tall man, as also was the Mayor and both were very well cast as the corrupt authority figures.

There was a delightfully OTT performance from Mike Dawes as the German speaking Doctor Hubner, popping in and out of the scenes in his long white coat provoking much merriment in the audience.   The Commissioner for Health, complete with splendid top hat was ably brought to life by Harry Sadler.

Many of the original male characters were played by women in this production, which was perhaps a little confusing at first, but in keeping with the fantasy aspect of this play worked surprisingly well.    Two Interesting characters Bobchinsky (Samantha Myers) and Dobchinsky (Nicky Barnes) in contrasting wigs were played in Tweedledum and Tweedledee style with much arguing and one-upmanship.   Both were very funny and complemented each other well.     Victoria Franklin as Osip, the valet to Kalashnikov, complete with awful teeth and a beret was another highlight and made the part very much her own.

The Mayor's wife Anna (Pam Campbell) and her daughter Marya (Millie Hart) both trying to seduce Kalashnikov and jealous of each other gave charismatic performances each resplendent in yellow and silvered frocks respectively.

Kim Groom as Director of Education and Avdotya played both with authority and skill.   Roger Jones was a believable Postmaster,  as was Jean Burgess as the Magistrate wearing a splendid lawyer's wig and then as the Locksmith's wife.

The other actors playing two or more parts all added their talents to the overall manic hilarity preposterousness of this situation were-

Naomi Johannes ..... Constable / Abdulin / Karobkin / Gendarme 

Hilary Jones ..... Superintendent of Police / Shopkeeper

Liz Ness  ..... Waiter / Shopkeeper / Health Commissioner's wife 

Angela Pope ..... Mishka / Sergeant's Widow / Lulu / Education director's friend

The simple but effective set with two prominent moveable door frames for the constant entrances and exits and the backdrop of a half eaten apple and tumbling houses surrounded by large rats was an effective portent of the corruption taking place on stage.   There was some singing which was well marshalled by musical director Keith Burgess.     Wardrobe under Mary Taylor and Jenny Burgess was colourful, well fitted and well suited to the eclectic mix of characters.

All in all this was another enjoyable evening with Cobham Players and a job well done by this friendly and welcoming company under the splendid direction of Rodney Pearson.