Stylish farce is full of fun
AS much Marx Brothers as Karl Marx, The Government Inspector sees a farcical level of corruption and kow-towing going on in Tsarist Russia.
And a new production of the surreal tale heads to Swansea's Taliesin Arts Centre tomorrow, and Saturday
with Stephen Marzella as The Governor.
Though the story has been knocking around since the 1800s, no matter when or where it is staged everyone can get the jokes to be found amid the dusty webs of local bureaucracy.
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Communicado Theatre's artistic director Gerry Mulgrew says: "That is true. Even though it was written in 1834 it is a play which is always relevant, fortunately for theatre companies, but unfortunately for the general population who put up with the way things are."
Laying bare corruption and rot has always been a dangerous move in Russia if you value your vital organs.
Consequently it was one of those tales that its writer, Nikolai Gogol, put life and soul on the line for.
And you can hear in the text, says Gerry, that it was written out of necessity and fervour.
"It was a very dangerous thing to speak out in Russia and it wasn't staged there until the Tsar stepped in.
"He enjoyed laughing at the bureaucrats beneath him, so it was put on, but Gogol had to get out of the country after it was."
The tale sees the self- serving mayor and associated bigwigs accept gifts and favours in exchange for turning a blind eye to various pieces of sharp practice.
It was an unusual drama at that time because there was no romantic interest, but that is not to say there are no sympathies to be drummed up for the characters, says Gerry.
"That is right, there is no romantic figure in the story, which might make it a bit more challenging for the audience, but it means I don't have to be concerned with any soppy stuff!
"While the characters are venal, they don't see themselves as corrupt for accepting the occasional fur coat. And we might all recognise certain behaviours in ourselves from the piece.
"Who hasn't accepted a gift from time to time?"
And while Gerry insists there are flickerings of conscience to be seen among them, they seem to be from the Chris Huhne school of penitence.
"They aren't without conscience, but mainly the conscience is based around getting found out.
"So one of the characters offers a prayer to God that he will light the biggest candle to him ever, if he prevents him from getting caught out on something.
"It is a very funny play — sometimes as farcical as the Marx Brothers and sometimes with a Commedia dell'Arte feel, and we have musical motifs, adding to the style and force of the thing."