An Inspector Calls. Again; A Gogol Classic Is Being Revived for 21st Century Audiences but, as Director Gerry Mulgrew Tells Karen Price, It Could Be a Tale of Our Times

Article excerpt

Byline: Gerry Mulgrew

IT may have been written in the early 19th century and set in Tsarist Russia but director Gerry Mulgrew believes The Government Inspector will resonate with audiences in Wales today.

"It's about corruption in local government and, by extension, big government," he explains as he takes a break from rehearsals in Aberystwyth. "It's one of those things that's unfortunately never gone out of fashion. When we premiered it in 2009, it was at the time of the MPs' expenses scandal.

"We've had many more scandals since then with the banks and government and so it continues.

It's one of those plays that never dates."

This revived production is a collaboration between Mulgrew's company Communicado and Aberystwyth Arts Centre. After opening in the Welsh seaside town, it will tour venues in Wales and then Scotland.

The Government Inspector was written in 1835 by Nikolai Gogol and is a classic satire on human vanity. By turns hilarious and vicious in its expose of corruption on high, the play focuses on the lead character of The Governor. By night he dreams of huge rats trying to devour him, and by day news that a Government Inspector is due to arrive imminently in the district does nothing to calm his nerves.

The town officials are called together and told to waste no time in cleaning up their act - shredding incriminating documents, issuing gagging orders, blacking out of the media.

They all have to work together to cover up the corruption that's been going on for years - bribes, misdirected contracts, mis-allocation of public money, fiddled expenses, abuses of office.

The fast-paced black comedy features live Balkan-fused music performed on electric balalaikas and mouth organs.

This production was initially adapted by Adrian Mitchell, originally for the National Theatre.

"I first read Adrian Mitchell's translation in the '80s," says Glasgow-born Mulgrew, who now lives near Edinburgh.

"A few years ago I decided to have a go at staging it and it went down very well as it's a great play."

The Aberystwyth Arts Centre team saw Mulgrew's production and were keen to revive it with him for Welsh as well as Scottish audiences.

"It's the same production but we've recast it with both Scottish and Welsh actors. …