Government Inspector

Warwick Arts Centre (Main Theatre)

Monday 23rd May, 2011

I hate to say this of the thus far brilliant season of theatre at the W.A.C. – A Game of You, every minute always and Something or Nothing have all been well reviewed and appreciated among the student community of theatre-goers – but the adaptation of Gogol’s Government Inspector sadly did not live up to its predecessors, nor to its aggressive advertising campaign.

This production is marketed as “the highlight of the season” but Julian Barratt’s opening performance was startling unimpressive and faltering. First night nerves – and not just those of Barratt – were allowed to prevail in a hugely professional space which is given a great deal of respect by many other lesser qualified individuals. It soon became clear that the actors and the stagehands had not had a lot of time in the space, and several problems with set and props created hilarity where it was not really wanted. There were moments of design genius – the use of the invisible wall which could be transcended during dream sequences was particularly lovely – but strange manholes appearing in the floor, and an unfortunate discrepancy in the description and the realisation of the “jaune” room, lent more distraction than development to the text.

Richard Jones’s direction was cluttered and some of the blocking was unnecessarily complex and faulty. That said, the conciseness of some of the actors did make for excellent comedy – Amanda Lawrence’s postmaster was sublime, and Kyle Soller’s Khlestakov was vain and greedy and infuriating (in a good way!). A few of the rest of the ensemble faded into the wallpaper but hopefully in the rest of the run at the Arts Centre – and further again in London – they will pick up momentum and a bit of sparkle might be added to an otherwise unfinished production. If they kick into gear – and the set doesn’t completely fall apart in the next few days – then this has the potential to be a corker. But if changes aren’t made and the logistics onstage and behind the scenes aren’t tightened up, then by the end of the week, Barratt’s (and the audience’s) nerves will be as shot to pieces as the mayor’s house in the second half.

Off to see It’s Like He’s Knocking tomorrow night, another first night, by Leo Kay – hoping for a more “phwoar factor” experience… Here’s hoping!

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