David Harrower’s new translation of Government Inspector is a hallucinogenic chocolate box of delights. Silly, ridiculous and so colourful your eyes will burn, if you go down to the Young Vic tonight, you’re definitely in for a big, Mighty Boosh-shaped, surprise.
Luckily someone else has already taken care of going in disguise, in the form of the hyperactive, gambling Khlestakov (Kyle Soller) who finds himself very much in the right place at the right time. With his exuberant tailoring – who said red heads couldn’t wear electric blue slacks? – and St Petersburg airs, not to mention his habitual compulsive lying, when the young rogue finds himself mistaken for a government inspector in a small Russian town, who is he to argue?
Led by the perpetually anxious mayor (Julian Barratt), the town rallies round in the only way they know how, bribing, lying and flattering their way to ensure their town’s survival.
But when the town judge is unapologetically corrupt, the postmaster incapable of delivering a letter without first checking its contents and the doctor a creepy, German fellow in Lederhosen who doesn’t understand anything his patients say, the mayor is in for a rough ride. Throw in an over-sexed wife (Doon MacKichan) with ideas way above her station and an intellectually challenged daughter out to snare the handsome young government inspector and you have all the makings of a hilariously mad farce.
When Richard Jones’s direction, his operatic roots clearly on display, is matched with Miriam Buether’s acid bright design, the production becomes an over-the-top spectacle that is wickedly enjoyable. This is a world where black rats run along the coving, sequinned leopard print jumpsuits count as daywear, mattresses are piled ceiling high to create the most comfortable of beds and a Casio keyboard provides slapstick sound effects.
Whether it was first night nerves or just a good make-up job, Barrett looked ready to keel over with stress by the end of the production. His pared down, slightly sinister performance style worked effectively with Harrower’s cheeky script, liberally scattered with crude turns of phrase.
To describe the supporting cast as shambolic would only be to their favour, playing, as they are, an odd-looking, greasy-haired relatively useless motley crew of misfits. Amanda Lawrence is a scene stealer as the postmaster and deranged widow, and Jack Brough and Fergus Craig add even more surrealism as a tartan clad Tweedledee and Tweedledum pair of fools.
Government Inspector is, in short, a psychedelic fairy tale of fantastical proportions. Leave your sensibility at the door and enjoy the trip.