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David Carlyle as the Mayor, getting his message across. Pictures: Robert Day

The Government Inspector

Birmingham Rep

*****

‘WE’RE all in this together’ was the line repeated several times during the course of Roxanna Gilbert’s all-encompassing direction of this new production of The Government Inspector.

Never was such a phrase more fitting, as in comparison to David Harrowers adaption of the play, which remains fairly safe, it is Polly Jerrold’s casting and Gilbert's directing approach that is anything but routine.

In association with Ramps on the Moon, the projethe inspectorct to integrate disabled and non-disabled in mainstream theatre, actors of short stature and practically most other disabilities are included.

Yet any perceived limitation is rendered invisible in this delightful blend of performance, signing and visual aids in a way that involves the disciplines, rather than simply adding them as an audience aid.

Rebekah Hinds as the Waiter, one of her four roles, Robin Morrissey as Khlestakov and Michael Keane as Osip

Nikolai Gogol was born on 20th March 1809 and wrote this biting satire of civil service obedience in 1835 and it remains a comical examination of corruption and ambition within the officialdom of a small town, whose inhabitants sycophantically pander to the whims of the feared, yet mistakenly identified, government inspector.

With the entire script being projected onto an overhead screen it was impressive to see how word accurate everyone was in the dialogue, a feature that may be impressive to the audience - but must be somewhat daunting for an actor.

The Mayor played by David Carlyle, in an almost Basil Fawltyesque manner, had great fun with his part. His heightened level of panic and need to impress even extended to the removal of patients from the hospital to prove how healthy the townsfolk were.

The Mayor’s wife Anna and daughter Maria were played by Kiruna Stamell and Francesca Mills respectively and, both being short actors, their enthusiasm and energy within their parts often stole the show.

Khlestakov, the man mistaken for the Government Inspector, was realised by Robin Morrissey and his performance, and especially a 12-minute monologue, was delivered flawlessly.

The roles of the principal performance interpreters, Beck Barry, Jean Sinclair and Amanda Wright was highly original with certain characters permanently shadowed by their fully costumed signing counterpart.

Sometimes the signing leads the live dialogue rather than other way around. Within a fantastic supporting cast Rebekah Hinds managed to impress by convincingly portraying four parts (Superintendent/Sergeant’s Wife/Waiter/Legal Clerk) thanks in part to her richly authentic accents.

Ti Green’s designs in both set and costume reflected the style of film director Wes Anderson with its bell hop crisply uniformed symmetry. The framework open set, complete with revolving doors and a working lift, became crucial elements in adding to the action.

For some, the technical projection of key words and the entire script might have been distracting. However their inclusion was of paramount importance and together with this unique combination of different actors, their talent and abilities and the diverse audience The Government Inspector attracted, proved beyond a doubt that we really are `all in this together' To 26-03-16

Jeff Grant

23-03-16 

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