Plays are chosen because of their relevance to their audiences. Nicolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector deals with corruption, bribery, hypocrisy and general smarminess in the most delightful way.
Set in a nameless provincial Russian town (the name of every town and city in South Africa fits well in our context) in Csarist Russia. The play was written in 1836. All similarities to current incidents are purely accidental.
Our mayor, Anton Antonovich (Peter Terry) has worked for years and has feathered himself and his cronies – a bunch of incompetent, corrupt and incorrigible thieves and morons – a pretty nest.
Then his little world is rocked by the Postmaster (who reads all the mail before it is sent or delivered) who advises him that the Czar has sent a Government Inspector to visit them. Worse! The Government Inspector has already been in town for several days. Mayor Antonovich has some terrible thoughts about being sent to Siberia.
The Judge who metes out justice by the number of rubles the plaintiff and defendant pay him, the School Principal who awards grades on the size of parental donations, the Hospital Manager who has built a hospital that cannot accommodate patients (the Mayor’s cousin is the contractor and the Chief Medical Officer who cannot speak a word of Russian are all pretty worried too.
Two merchants, Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky move the action forward, leading the town dignitaries to a man the audience know to be a lowly government clerk who has reached the point of ruin because of his spendthrift habits, aggravated by a serious gambling problem. Enter Ivan Alexandreyevic Hlestakov (Matthew Lotter) who finds himself the object of much fawning attention from not only the townfolk, but also the Mayor’s daughter and the Mayor’s wife.
It is all ridiculous and preposterous but, sadly, as plausible as this month’s news summary. The tragedy underlying this comedy is universal and timeless. It is directed by Jessica Friedan. It was plausible, amusing and perfectly charming, with Peter Terry turning in an absolutely wonderful performance as the blustering, bumbling mayor. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
All roles not named are played by Wits Students and I apologise to them most profusely for not naming them but I have lost or mislaid the programme and I am unable to remember all of them. However, when I mentioned to Peter Terry that this was the reason for the delay in getting the review out he pointed out that it was a dismal excuse and that students needed to earn the right to a mention. Here I point to him and yell “Blame him!”
The play is a full length play and has an interval.
The run at Wits Theatre is finished now.