Members of the Senior School and Sixth Form took to the stage last week to present Nikolai Gogol’s ‘The Government Inspector’ in one final dramatic farewell to our 175th anniversary year. A play about a small-town tyrant who abuses his power for personal gain until he ultimately gets his comeuppance, ‘The Government Inspector’ stepped away from the mainstream productions we’re used to at Rossall and took us to the unknown in Soviet Russia.
The first performance saw the Rossall thespians step even further out of their comfort zones, performing at Thornton Little-Theatre to a modest crowd. If first-night nerves were present, they were left at the stage door, as each of the twenty-eight strong cast appeared to give their all on opening night. Thought ‘their all’ was yet to come.
Returning to the Performing Arts Studio for the remaining two nights of ‘The Government Inspector’, audiences entered to find themselves in an old Russian bar, complete with wing back chairs, wooden benches, a crackling fire, and a slightly off-key violinist.
With the provincial Mayor Skvoznik-Dmukhanovsky’s face on the wall and drinks, the scene was already set for Ohad Haviv Buck to take centre stage as the law-bending leader.
Set in the round, the play began with the Mayor interrupting a party held by his council to announce the imminent arrival of a government inspector. The Council – Dylan Tran as Judge Lyapkin-Tyapkin, Georgia Oldham as Superintendent of Schools Khlopova, Morgan Woodward as Charities Warden Zemlyanika and Moritz Bausch as Dr. Gibner – paid so much attention to detail the audience often found themselves watching the silent background acting rather than the actor delivering a monologue. Moritz Bausch particularly added so much detail to his character despite only ever speaking one line in the play, and that in German.
Postmistress Shpyokina, played by Lucie Ashworth-Prescott, brought the first real streak of comedy to stage, as upon being asked to look at the post for news of the inspector admitted that she opens post just ‘out of curiosity’ – she then proceeded to do so in the background of the next scene.
The ‘Inspector’ was soon found by Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky (Harry Bennet and Felix Mistry, a fantastic double act of slightly dim-witted Landowners) and Myles Davies’ Khlestakov, a clerk from St Petersburg (not actually a government inspector) was introduced. An established Rossall actor, this was Myles’ first time as a Senior School lead character and he did not disappoint. Ohad and Myles delivered scenes with impeccable skill and timing, teamed with a brilliant command of physical and verbal comedy.
Sofia Deplidge and Morgan Wallace shone as the Mayor’s ever-battling wife and daughter, while their characters were very-much ladies of leisure seeking gossip and attention, their purpose was much deeper. Their characters ultimately show the humanity and stupidity of the Mayor – a purpose Deplidge and Wallace revelled in.
Adeiteoluwa Oludotun-Fasanya, the youngest member of the cast to deliver a monologue, impressed as Khlestakov’s manservant Osip, his presence just as strong as the Sixth Formers he stood alongside.
Despite having smaller parts, the remaining cast all served to reveal the misdeeds of both the Mayor and the ‘Inspector’, each playing a memorable part no matter how small. The team of police even doubled up as crew, changing the simplistic set between scenes with a flurry of confusion, whistle blowing and the occasional pratfall.
Helmed for the first time by Director of Performing Arts, David Newell, ‘The Government Inspector’ showed off a wealth of talent here at Rossall that will only continue to grow. If future performances too sway from the mainstream, it is possibly even more reason to secure yourself a ticket. Rossall Drama embraces a challenge and delivers in excess every time.