The Government Inspector
Back in the 1980s, Scottish theatre audiences could count on the likes of Communicado, Wildcat and 7:84 to maintain a live, lively commentary on contemporary events, often by drawing analogies sourced from Scottish history. It’s perhaps a force that’s been missing of late, as the years mount up between Communicado productions (their last was a brilliant adaptation of Fergus Lamont, Robin Jenkins’ pointed look at Scottish Tories, in 2007). However, in the wake of the rich satirical pickings of the MPs’ expenses scandal, artistic director Gerry Mulgrew evidently feels the time is ripe for a revival of Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play The Government Inspector.
‘I think the time has come for a bit more theatre with teeth: there’s been a lot of gumsy theatre going on in the last ten or 15 years,’ he says. ‘Unfortunately a play like this is always relevant because there’s always corruption, but especially so at the moment, with expenses scandals and the banks and who knows what is going on. I don’t think we’ll find out the half of it, because the automatic response of human beings is to cover everything up.’
Gogol’s play (Communicado are using the late Adrian Mitchell’s 1986 adaptation for the National Theatre) is set in a small Russian town where the corrupt local officials are informed an anonymous government inspector will be reviewing them. There’s a case of mistaken identity, bribes are thrown and a very savage, furious satire of bureaucracy ensues.
‘It’s about human nature,’ says Mulgrew. ‘These characters come from 1834 but the story could be taken from any newspaper today. They’re exactly the same – they’ve not been doing their jobs, they take the odd bribe. It seems to be something intrinsic to us: I can think of very few people who haven’t fiddled the odd expense.’
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 11–Sat 27 Feb