The Government Inspector | Bell ShakespeareDarren Gilshenan in The Government Inspector

The Government Inspector, as presented by Bell Shakespeare, is a performance tour-de-force. Adapted by Roger Pulvers as a two man play, this bold production is a ludicrously ridiculous success of a thing. It is quite event-theatre to watch two seasoned performers ably cover the ground of nineteen characters and all without an interval!

Set in a corrupt Russian backwater town, which is peopled by stupid, vile and self-serving residents, a stupid, vile and self-serving lowly government worker is mistaken for the powerful and influential government inspector. Subsequently he eagerly gobbles up the readily proffered bribes and drinks in, quite literally, the ingratiating hospitality of the town.

The Government Inspector as directed by John Bell places the actors’ performances firmly at the centre of the production. Darren Gilshenan and William Zappa energetically generate an assortment of characters who are clearly distinguished from each other. It is a joyfully foolish array of people, with the focus on farce and physical humour. At two hours long, the performers do not once allow fatigue to show, and I was particularly impressed by the female characters and by the most bizarre sex scene I have ever seen on stage.

As successful as it is, such a bold adaptation does have its shortcomings. The focus on bravado performance has the effect of diminishing the potential for satire, as the audience is swept up in the charismatic performances leaving the politics behind. Also, the character changes occasionally resulted in an avoidable feeling of the audience waiting for the actor to change costume, with a bit of comic relief thrown in to pass the time. 

Designer Stephen Curtis’ set is a delightfully multi-purpose construction based on a huge, tatty packing box. It cleverly folds in and out and back onto itself creating a fascinating range of settings. The costumes are also really impressive, very evocative of character and entertainingly put together.

The Government Inspector is unequivocally a dynamic and entertaining production. Darren Gilshenan and William Zappa, as enabled by John Bell and various nifty stage-hands, pull off a riotously successful feat, firmly confirming their reputations as multi-talented performance machines. It is a shriekingly successful, comic theatre event.

Bell Shakespeare presents
The Government Inspector
By Nikolai Gogol
Translated and Adapted by Roger Pulvers

Venue: Playhouse, The Arts Centre
Meet Bell Shakespeare: Tuesday 25 September, 6 – 7.30pm
Preview: 26 September
Subscription Season: 28 September – 6 October
Matinees: 29 September, 3 & 6 October
Times: Monday 6.30pm, Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm; Matinees Wednesday & Saturday 1.30pm
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166

Related Articles

Give My Regards To Broady Give My Regards To Broady
This unpretentious production is definitely an over-achiever that shows promise of far greater things. Some shows you laugh at because the cast is trying so hard and you want to encourage them....
The Birthday Party | Melbourne Theatre Company The Birthday Party | Melbourne Theatre Company
Fifty-one years after English playwright Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party was greeted with hostility and incomprehension from London audiences, the play still has the power to mystify...

Most read Melbourne reviews

Master of the deadpan, harsh host of Hard Quiz, and heartless interrogator on Hard Chat, making...

It doesn’t matter how much you know or care about the legality of the Essendon Football Club...

If you’re looking for a show that’s completely different and unlike anything you’ve seen in...

For fans of the musical, the problems and changes to the book and plot of Chess are as familiar...

Swapping 16th Century Verona for 1930s Hollywood, and a lengthy title for the short and snappy...