Gogol’s original play is sublime, spearing the corruption and pretensions of mid-19th Century Russia. However, this wonderful new production by Richard Jones, based on a fresh translation by Ian Harrower, takes the play into a new dimension entirely. This is Gogol-as-cartoon, fast and brash and bright and stylish. The set is the interior of a house which disappears rapidly into an impossible perspective, the costumes are from CbeeBees, the characters grotesques. Visually it was superb, every angle and mannerism maximised for comic effect. But it captured the manic surreality of Gogol perfectly, and the exaggerated movement allows the action to hurtle along at a cracking pace.
|Louise Brealey (Maria), Doon Mackichan (Anna)|
and Julian Barratt (Mayor) in
Government Inspector at the Young Vic, London
Photo: Tristram Kenton
The only disappointment, however, was Julian Barrett as the Mayor. Barrett’s previous experience on stage is as a comedian, and on television. As far as I can discover, this is his first major theatrical acting role, and one could tell. He looked the part, his movement was very good and some facial expressions very funny, but his delivery was a bit flat and lacked conviction when compared to the manic, exaggerated projection of his fellow actors. In other productions this may not have mattered, but here he was exposed and it left a bit of a hole in the middle of the show.
However, this was the only weakness in a tremendously good production, one which was as visually striking as anything I have seen in years. Fast, funny, clever, stylish, this really demonstrated – vide my comments on Deborah Warner’s School for Scandal – how to make an old play relevant for the 21st Century, as all the youngsters around me seemed to love it.