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The Government Inspector | Marylebone Theatre

Patrick Myles’ production of The Government Inspector is a highly stylised, larger than life version of Gogol’s satire. Myles’ attempt to deliver the farcical elements of the play with heavy handed direction however falls short in delivering the truth needed to make this satire biting.

The story follows a Mayor of a provincial town as he receives notice that a Government Inspector will be shortly arriving to observe and investigate the town. In desperation to cover up their misdeeds, the Mayor and his council try to appease the Government Inspector with bribes. What follows is a satire that ridicules the lengths of corruption that people will go to for self-preservation and power.

Instead of a Russian provincial town, Myles sets the play in a provincial English town, seeing the townspeople pine after London in the presence of the proclaimed noble Government Inspector. The translation is clever in doing so with quips comparing Londoners versus, as the Government Inspector sees them, the country bumpkins, which lands well with the primarily British audience. The production is directed at an incredibly speedy pace and high energy, which backfires its imagined intention to keep the audience’s attention sharp and to hit the comedic beats. Often, the dialogue is difficult to understand, with many jokes lost as they are raced over.

The cast cope well under the restrains of their heavy direction, with a notable performance from Chaya Gupta playing Marya Antonovna, who is charming and naturally very funny. Her interactions with the flirtatious Government Inspector, performed by Kiell Smith-Bynoe, are choreographed well. This moment stands out as a highlight due to the humour successfully landing. Gupta should be praised for her earnest portrayal of the unlucky, meek young 18-year-old who is so desperate to escape her mother’s dictatorship and to find a taste of love and life. It is Gupta’s approach to delivering this performance truthfully, rather than as a stereotype, that unlocks the comedy in the situation. If more of the performances had a similar approach, the dynamics and relationships may be more believable and as a result, more humorous.

Melanie Janes Brookes' set and costume design is underwhelming, and it isn’t clear whether the costumes and set chosen are stylistically intended to convey the lack of taste of the characters, or if they rather are result of budget restraints. Jamie Lu’s sound design is on the nose, playing reprieves of the Russian Kalinka. It is confusing that Russian Folk Music is used in the sound design against Myles’ setting in an English provincial town.

If the production had leant more into trusting the wit of Gorky’s words and story, rather than feeling a need to paint all the jokes in blindingly neon colours, this version may have been more successful. The Government Inspector plays at the Marylebone Theatre until 15th June - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Oliver King


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