Fringe Box



Stage Dragon Review: The Government Inspector At Merrist Wood College

Published on: 19 Jul, 2019
Updated on: 19 Jul, 2019

By Tricia Marcotti

I’ve come to expect an accomplished performance whenever I watch the Guildburys Theatre Company perform, and last night was no exception. In the open air at Merrist Wood College this week, they are performing The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol and adapted by Alistair Beaton.

The format of these evenings is relaxed: you bring chairs and a picnic, then watch the performance. There is even a liquid refreshment tent, provided for this run by Tilford Brewery.

The town dignitaries being told about the stranger at the inn in The Government Inspector at Merrist Wood College. Photo: Phill Griffith.

The setting of Merrist Wood College is a good choice, as while you wait for the performance to begin (eight pm) you can watch the clouds scudding by, with planes and stars overhead.

I wondered how the vocal projections would carry in the open air, but I needn’t have worried as there was a sound system surrounding the audience. There were a couple of very small showers during the run up to the actual performance, but not enough to dampen the occasion.

The Mayor’s daughter, the visitor’s servant, and the Mayor’s wife enjoying the party. Photo by Phill Griffith.

The Russian play was written in 1836, but Alistair Beaton has adapted it into the current English speech, although he has kept the Russian names of the characters. These were not used excessively, but their titles were. I listened with interest while the cast spoke the characters names, but even now I don’t think I can pronounce them, and I have a programme in front of me.

The set and stage (for the stage had to be built for the site) as designed by Ian Nichols (who also directed) and Graham Russell-Price were minimalist but appropriate for the locale. I did feel sorry for the Mayor’s servants who were rushing on and off stage with furniture, especially chairs, from time to time throughout the play.

The visitor allowing the mayor to “loan” him some roubles. Photo by Phill Griffith.

The cast is divided into four groups: The visitors, the dignitaries and officers, the mayor’s servants and the townsfolk. It was easy to place which group a cast member belonged to as the costumier, Diane Nichols has dressed each in clothes appropriate to their position. The seamstresses and milliner are to be commended for the huge amount of work they have done to assemble costumes for such a large cast.

The dignitaries and officers of the town are involved in corruption to varying degrees, lining their own pockets at the expense of the townsfolk. The mayor (played by Robert Sheppard) receives word that a government inspector is coming to town to look into any wrongdoing.

Having heard this, he then discovers there is a stranger in town. It is assumed that the stranger is the inspector and from there the hilarity begins.

There was music and dancing onstage at various times throughout which was appreciated by the audience, and much coming and going of the entire cast to the extent that I felt tired out by all their activity.

The audience enjoyed this play as much as I did, judging from the laughter around me last night. This is definitely a family friendly play.

The Government Inspector run continues up to Saturday, July 20. To book tickets, click here for the box office. As well as the evening performance at 8 pm there is also a Saturday matinee at 2 pm.

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