Theatre Review: A Government Inspector - Harrogate Theatre (then UK tour) ✭✭✭✭

A Government Inspector

Harrogate Theatre (then UK tour)

Whilst many will know Northern Broadsides for their down to earth, no nonsense approach to the works of Shakespeare, audiences at Harrogate Theatre this week are being treated to another side to this revered touring company - and it is very funny!

In this new adaption of Nikola Gogol's A Government Inspector, Northern Broadsides add their trademark regional, and more specifically Northern, bluntness and straight forward style to proceedings in what amounts to a simple farce - but a simple farce with tons of style, clever dialogue and comic characterisations. If you are looking for a gritty dissection of political life in a small Northern town then you will be sadly disappointed but if you want to enjoy a fantastic evening of satire in the company of some clearly dysfunctional characters, cunning but clueless councillors and a gloriously camp imposter, this is the place to be.

Warned that a Government Inspector his heading for their town - which even the residents are unsure about whether it lies on the red or white rose side of the Pennines - the leader of the town council and his band of cronies set to cover up the years of corruption and lacklustre leadership that they have presided over. Convinced the newly arrived gentlemen in the pub is the inspector (after all, all members of Government spend the lion's share of their time in the pub) they embark on a path of bribery and false niceties to ensure a favourable report. Of course the man in the pub is not who they think he is - but he is all too happy to enjoy their hospitality for his own ends. Non-stop fun ensues.

With more issues and hang-ups than the parishioners of Dibley, the towns folk are a curious bunch. From the judge who would rather be out shooting to the councillor in charge of Education with a propensity to faint at any given moment. All of them have power beyond their intellect and have both enjoyed and abused the privileges their positions have afforded them - a sad reflection on the state of leadership in the UK? The cast easily switch from one set of characters to another, often with a quick-change speed that would show up the most fast moving of Panto Dames.

Lovely comic performances litter the production, but Jon Trenchard's portrayal of Jonathan Alexander Snapper ESQ dominates every time he is on stage. His unashamedly over the top wannabe London toff demands that all eyes are kept on him - and audiences have no choice but to oblige. And he can sing a fair bit too!

Deborah McAndrew's tight script weaves in some fantastic current references from the government's alleged love of pasties to means-testing but the piece has a timeless quality to it - it could've been set any time over the last 40 years and would have been as relevant. Her partner in crime, director and composer Conrad Nelson, sets the whole production to a brass band soundtrack will all members of the company picking up an instrument throughout proceedings. This musical symbol of a Northern town becomes a character in it own right, to the point when it becomes the voice of the enraged locals pouncing on an opportunity to highlight the plight of their beleaguered town.

Dawn Allsop's set is a wonderful box of tricks. Without any fuss, it constantly evolves and changes to reflect the change in locations and scenes. Doors appear from cabinets of drawers, a piano keyboard pops out and panels flip with sublime invention and innovation. It is supremely effective and a joy to watch in its own right.

Some people may find the characters a little contrived, but this production is not attempting to be realistic - it is holding up a distorted, fun fair style mirror to our society at large as we all, not just those in power, need to reflect on the way the world is run. But don't get too hung up on hidden messages and agendas, this is good theatrical fun which will keep you laughing throughout. Hilarious.

4 stars out of 5 ✭✭✭✭

Review by James Eaglesfield

Listings Information

UK Tour:  Opening at Harrogate Theatre from 7-22 Sept and then touring until 1 Dec 2012

7-22 Sept at 7.30pm (Mat: 15 & 22 Sept at 2.30pm) Harrogate Theatre
Box Office 01423 502 116 or

25-29 Sept at 8pm (Mat: 27 Sep at 1.30pm & 29 Sep at 2.30pm): Theatre Royal Winchester
Box Office 01962 840440 or

2-6 Oct: at 7.45pm (Mat: 4 Oct & 6 Oct at 2pm): Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Box Office 01242 572573 or

9-13 Oct at 7.30pm (Mat: 10 Oct at 1pm & 13 Oct at 2pm) Dukes Theatre, Lancaster
Box Office 01524 598500 or

16-20 Oct at 7.30pm (Mat: 18 Oct at 1.30pm & 20 Oct at 2.30pm): Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
Box Office 01723 370541 or

24-27 Oct at 7.30pm (Mat: 27 Oct at 2.15pm): Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
Box office 01484 430528 or

6-10 November at 7.30pm (Mat: 10 Oct at 2.15pm): New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme
Box Office 01782 717962 or

13-17 Nov at 7.30pm (Mat: 15 Nov at 1.30pm & 17 Nov at 2pm): Liverpool Playhouse
Box Office 0151 7094776 or

20-24 Nov at 7.30pm (Mat: 23 Nov at 2.30pm): Viaduct Theatre, Halifax
Box Office 01422 255 266 or

Tue 27 – Sat 1 Dec at 7.30pm (Mat 29 at 2pm &1 Dec at 2.30pm): York Theatre Royal
Box Office 01904 623568 or