Cor­rup­tion ki­boshed in black com­edy


A play that saw its au­thor run out of town for an all-too ac­cu­rate por­trayal of of­fi­cial cor­rup­tion, gets a re­boot at Feild­ing Lit­tle Theatre from this week.

Rus­sian play­wright Ni­co­lai Go­gol wrote The Gov­ern­ment In­spec­tor, his dark satire on cor­rup­tion in im­pe­rial Rus­sia, in 1836. Its per­for­mance was sup­ported by none other than the Tsar him­self, Ni­cholas I.

How­ever, the play’s ‘‘suc­cess’’ in­curred the wrath of many bu­reau­crats and of­fi­cials for its in­ci­sive dis­sec­tion and ex­po­sure of their prac­tices, and Go­gol thought it ex­pe­di­ent to leave Rus­sia, spend­ing the next dozen years trav­el­ling around Europe.

Di­rec­tor Dan Ma­teer came across a new trans­la­tion and adap­ta­tion by Aus­tralian play­wright Roger Pul­vers.

’’The play was orig­i­nally writ­ten for 23 char­ac­ters, and Roger Pul­vers was asked if he could adapt it for eight. He was then asked to re­duce that num­ber to four. In­stead, he rewrote it so it could be per­formed by two ac­tors.’’

Ma­teer saw a pro­duc­tion in Melbourne by the Bell Shake­speare Com­pany.

‘‘They per­formed it as if it took place in a card­board box. I thought it was good enough and funny enough to have a go at it.’’

He even­tu­ally es­tab­lished con­tact with Pul­vers, who he said had been most help­ful of­fer­ing in­for­ma­tion about the char­ac­ters and stag­ing. ‘‘The con­cept be­hind Go­gol’s play is time­less. New Zealand and Den­mark are the least cor­rupt coun­tries in the world at 90 per cent, so we have to ac­count for the 10 per cent cor­rup­tion in the coun­try. What Go­gol said nearly 200 years ago about cor­rup­tion, greed, lust and stu­pid­ity is true to­day.’’

Ma­teer has kept the Rus­sian flavour of the di­a­logue, but set the play some­time in the 30s, with ac­tors Peter Do­herty as ‘Character A’ and Phil White as ‘Character Z’.

‘‘We play it straight and let the au­di­ence find their own fun in the piece.‘‘

The play sees a young man called Kh­lestakov turn up in a pro­vin­cial town where he is mis­taken for a gov­ern­ment in­spec­tor, and plied with all kinds of in­duce­ments to write a favourable re­port.

Go­gol’s The Gov­ern­ment In­spec­tor opens on Fri­day, June 9 at the Feild­ing Lit­tle Theatre un­til July 1, with book­ings on 323 5051 and feild­ingth­e­


Phil White and Peter Do­herty play a host of char­ac­ters in the Feild­ing Lit­tle Theatre pro­duc­tion of ‘‘The Gov­ern­ment In­spec­tor’’.

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