Roddy Doyle’s reinterpretation of The Government Inspector gives this Russian comedy classic a new lease of life, writes Maria Whelan
Roddy Doyle shakes the Abbey Theatre with laugher with his adaptation of The Government Inspector. Originally written by Russian playwright, Nikolai Gogol in 1836, Roddy Doyle reinvents the tale by seamlessly shifting it in time, making it contemporary and relevant. He manages to balance the old with the new as characters still go by typical Russian names, such as Khlestakov and Anna Andreyevna, from the original text, yet he shakes it up with the Irish vernacular, with “lad” here and a “grand” there, which adds to the hilarity of the performance.
The play is an allegory of the ongoing economic crisis, but it particularly seems to give a dig at the Fianna Fail era, Bertie, and his gang. Between lines such as “This house is my family house but not necessarily my principle residence”, or “new notes make new happiness”, and the bulging brown envelopes being handed back and forth, it seems all too familiar. In this version of the play, corruption and comedy go hand and hand.
Yet if we go beyond the parody, the play transcends its “Irishness” and hones in on a story of mistaken identity. The plot revolves around the havoc which descends on the small provincial town when the local authority gets wind that an incognito Government Inspector is due to pay them a visit. The officials go into a furious meltdown as they attempt to cover up their crooked practices and make the town presentable. Patients are kicked out of the hospital to make it appear as if there is a surplus of beds, and the chickens living in the courthouse are forced to reside somewhere else, all for the sake of this unidentified official from St. Petersburg.
However, the efforts made by the Mayor (Don Wycherley) and his subordinates seem to come too early. When a leeching outsider named Khlestakov (Ciarán O’Brien) comes to town, the anxious locals are all too willing to impress. But perhaps Khlestakov’s eccentric behavior and disheveled appearance is not an attempt to withhold his true identity as the inspector. To put it in Khlestakov’s terms, the Mayor’s confusion may have something to do with the fact that “he’s as thick as day old shite.” When the real inspector comes to town will they have the same momentum to impress?
The Government Inspector is energetic and farcical; its witticisms and ridiculous characters make it the perfect play to overcome the exam blues.
The Government Inspector is running at the Abbey Theatre until January 28th. Tickets are priced from €13. For more information, see www.abbeytheatre.ie