Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Government Inspector

Just in from one of the best night's theatre I have ever experienced. If you have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to see Roddy Doyle's adaptation of Gogol's 'The Government Inspector' now playing at the Abbey theatre do so - you won't regret it.

There is a huge cast of characters who are brilliantly choreographed around a stunning set. The show is directed by Jimmy Fay, who previously directed Doyle's version of 'The Playboy of the Western World' in the Abbey and indeed there were times in tonight's show when I was reminded of Playboy. Basically a stranger arrives in town and because of rumour and innuendo it is assumed he is a government inspector come to flush out corruption in the local government. The outsider Khlestakov (played brilliantly like a manic Johnny Bravo by Ciaran O'Brien) is a chancer of the highest order and he plays upon the fears, greed and idiocies of the community; he charms their women, flatters their men, makes promises he cannot make and ultimately robs them blind.

At times the stage was as deliberately crowded as a scene in a pantomime - characters rushing about and getting nowhere. Organised chaos - much like our government in a flap. Except the actors knew exactly what was going to happen next. The ensemble acting was superb - not a bum note struck. Roddy Doyle is a master of dialogue and he has a great eye for the ridiculous. He has lifted Gogol's play out of 19th century Russia and planted it firmly in the ruined administration and ghost estates of 21st century Ireland.

All performances were brilliant but I'd have to give  a special mention to Don Wycherly as the Mayor - it's a huge role - very very physical and he makes it look easy. He always has a great presence on stage and it is hard to take one's eye off him, his timing is superb - he even managed to step slightly out of character while in character to rope the audience in as fellow culprits in the 'another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into.' Marion O'Dwyer as the mayor's wife was a treat and her heavy flirting with Khlestakov was a joy to watch. Class.

I really cannot recommend this show highly enough. Even the programme, complete with cut out characters from Martin Turner is entertaining.You'll laugh yourself silly and also come away a little sobered by the fact that the cast of clowns on the stage are a fairly accurate portrayal of the leadership (or lack of it) in Ireland over a number of years. Brilliant. 

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