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