A delightfully chaotic co-production transports Gogol’s comedic masterpiece to the modern day.
The latest collaboration between Malthouse and Belvoir Theatres has brought forth The Government Inspector, a modern adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s 19th century comedic farce.
Based on real-world events, the show begins with the clerical Robert Menzies appearing on stage to announce that the originally planned play for that evening, The Philadelphia Story by Philip Barry, will no longer be presented due to a refusal from copyright owners to adapt the script. Instead, The Government Inspector will be a last-minute substitute.
Despite a short rehearsal period of only three weeks, director Simon Stone hilariously depicts the backstage process in putting on the new play, updating the classic story from tsarist Russia to the Belvoir rehearsal room.
Thrown into the actors’ world in the shambolic aftermath of their director quitting, the actors do some googling and contract as replacement an Uzbekistani import – reportedly famous in Europe – in an attempt to save the production and their jobs.
So enters Gareth Davies, the luckless Frank who the cast quickly mistake for the famed Uzbekistani. An increasingly clever and unexpected series of plot turns ensues, ultimately leading to a glitzy performance at the show’s conclusion.
The actors, playing larger-than-life versions of themselves, are impressively convincing in their roles. The ambitious and hot-headed Greg Stone provides plenty of laughs as he becomes slowly disillusioned with the dysfunctional state of rehearsals. Eryn-Jean Norvill is captivating as a ditzy film starlet out to prove her theatrical acting chops – replete with frequent references to The Lion King. Mitchell Butel shines as an egomaniac rehearsing his Oscar acceptance speech in his dressing-room mirror while fantasizing about his sexual conquests at the awards after-party. Zahra Newman’s striking singing voice is also masterfully showcased in the play's conclusion.
Through the chaos of hijacked rehearsals and backstage panic, this latest adaptation of The Government Inspector shines as a dazzlingly clever take on Gogol. Holding a reflection up to the audience, amidst the laughter there are also poignant reflections on love and loss.