Byline: HENRY HITCHINGS
FIRST NIGHT GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR Young Vic, SE1 HENRY HITCHINGS IF Nikolai Gogol were alive today, I suspect he might be a fan of The Mighty Boosh. Gogol's chaotic humour and verbal daring chime with that surreal comedy act's anarchic, intricate clowning.
So the casting of Boosh founder Julian Barratt in this new version of Gogol's 1836 play The Government Inspector -- which has here lost its "the", as if to suggest something more timeless and indefinite -- is both tantalizing and inspired.
Barratt plays the mayor of a small town described as "beyond the back of beyond". When news arrives that a government inspector is due to visit, he and the other local worthies panic. Their corruption will surely be uncovered unless they do an incredibly good job of papering over the cracks in their rotten little boondocks.
Sure enough, a glamorous newcomer turns up. Everyone assumes he is the inspector. Teetering on the brink of a collective meltdown, the bureaucrats ply him with drink and stuff his pockets with money. The mayor's pretentious wife (Doon Mackichan) and silly daughter are magnetised by him. But there's one snag: he's in fact just a gambling addict who gleefully milks the ensuing largesse.
Director Richard Jones approaches Gogol's appealing satire in a style that's blissfully bizarre and often thrillingly original. …