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Watermill Young Company - The Government Inspector

14th to 17th November 2012.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Gogol's comedy of errors

False beards and fur coats in fun-filled production of the satirical Government Inspector

Watermill Young Company: The Government Inspector, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, November 14 to Saturday, November 17

Seamus Allen chose The Government Inspector as his directorial debut for the Watermill Young Company and has created, a great fun-filled interpretation of Gogol's sardonic play that the young actors relished and it rattled along at a cracking pace.

Adrian Mitchell's adaption has punchy dialogue in what is a classic satirical story of corruption, greed, political intrigue, bribery and mistaken identity, so it's as relevant today as when it was first written more than 170 years ago.

Designer Amy Cartwright had created a multi-faceted set of exposed slatted walls with portraits of the Tsar, odd furniture and a general feeling of disarray.

Thomas Norman was splendid as the small Russian town's corrupt mayor who "cheats the cheats and swindles the swindlers". When he discovers from the village gossips Dobchinsky (Genevieve McCallum) and Bobchinsky (Meghan Taylor) that a government inspector from St Petersburg is to visit, it plunges the town's officials into turmoil as they try to cover up their illegal practices.

When a stranger, full of airs and graces, and his starving servant Osip (Robert Conway) arrive at the inn, he is mistakenly taken for the inspector. Alex S J Lonsdale portrays Khlestakov as a rather camp inspector who can't believe his luck when his bills are paid for and he is moved to the mayor's house, where his fortunes are enhanced by receiving a series of bribes or, as he calls them, 'loans' from the townsfolk.

He holds court and tells ridiculous stories of his prowess as a writer and his standing at court, when really he is only a lowly penniless civil servant.

Kitty Speed revelled in her role as Anna, the mayor's haughty ambitious wife, who flirts outrageously with Khlestakov. Her 'chav' daughter Marya, complete with her hair in curlers, was hilarious, especially when, seeing an opportunity to further his fortune, Khlestakov proposes to her.

The members of the town council gave well-observed cameo performances. William Barret was the ineffectual Schools Superintendent who states "God help anyone who goes into teaching".

Mario Jones was the grovelling Postmaster who steamed open envelopes to read the mail and Christopher Baker was the conniving Judge.

The Charity Commissioner (Elliot Laker), for all the World the archetypical spiv, eventually betrays his colleague's misdemeanours to the inspector but by then it's too late, as Khlestakov has made enough money and flees the town before he is found out.

There was strong support from Alastair Bull as Mishka, Robert Canniffe as the bumbling doctor and Amy Folland and Talitha Wing, who played multiple roles.

I loved the merchants, all wearing false beards and the chorus of villagers in fur coats and headscarves who acted as scene changers - great inventive fun.

This was a lively, ambitious production that received enthusiastic applause from a full house.