Review: The Government Inspector

A new production of The Government Inspetor by Ramps on the Moon.A new production of The Government Inspetor by Ramps on the Moon.
A new production of The Government Inspetor by Ramps on the Moon.
When the real Government Inspector of the title finally turns up, she's a black woman. I'm not sure how many times that has been the punchline to this Russian-written satire, but it works as a perfect example of how shifting expectation can pay dividends. We live in a society where the accepted 'normal form' is white, male and non-disabled: step away from what's considered normative and surprising things can happen.

The Government Inspector is the first production from Ramps on the Moon, a scheme which aims to increase the presence of disabled actors on stage. Seven theatres have collaborated on the scheme, including the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Sheffield Theatres, which will host this production in June. They should be looking forward to it. It is a beautifully performed, hilarious show. In a way one doesn’t want to really talk about the fact that some of the performers on stage are disabled – in actual fact, they aren’t. The on-stage audio description, sign language and lifts which allow access to the first level of the set mean everyone on stage has been enabled. It’s a simple shift in thinking that we need to see more of.

David Harrower’s adaptation of Gogol’s story is simplicity itself. The authorities of a small Russian town, led by the mayor, are on the fiddle. They mistake a civil servant for the inspector and lavish him with bribes. Much hangs on the performances of the Mayor and civil servant Khlestakov. David Carlyle as the former and Robin Morrissey as the latter are so brilliant this can at feels like a two-man show. One that never dips below highly entertaining.

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A visually spectacular, engaging, funny piece of work. Its other merits, pushing towards true equality are a wonderful addition, not a sole reason for the piece to exist.

West Yorkshire Playhouse to April 30. Sheffield Crucible June 17-25.