Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector is currently on tour visiting six theatres nationwide, including the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and they commit to supporting access theatre to disabled people.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Ramps On The Moon presents this satirical play, adapted by David Harrower, which is set in 19th Century Russia. It is about an unknown inspector coming to town and its residents including the Mayor (David Carlyle) anxiously prepare for his arrival; only for Khlestakov (Robin Morrissey), a civil servant, to be mistaken for the inspector.
Khlestakov pretends he is the inspector and impersonates the position. He manages to swindle money from the Mayor’s associates and some of the town’s residents and becomes engaged to Maria (Francesca Mills), the Mayor’s daughter. Eventually letters reveal Khlestakov’s true identity and the arrival of an actual government inspector.
This play is certainly a ‘comedy of errors’ and a number of themes emerge including power and class struggles, human greed, irresponsibility, and crucially the political corruption of Imperial Russia in the 19th Century.
Ramps On The Moon ensures everyone including deaf and disabled people have an opportunity to see this production. This ambitious project’s aims are to change disability arts provision across the country and for disabled people to access the theatre.
Not only the deaf and disabled people have an opportunity to watch – they have an opportunity to participate in these productions. Some of the integrated cast double up on stage doing sign language or describe audibly from a deaf artist. Ti Green’s staging tells the story coherently and yet at the same time make the stage accessible with screen surtitles and plenty of space for the cast to assemble. The set is supported by Timothy Bird’s video projections which are kinetically pleasing with key words in large and intertwined with Chahine Yavroyan’s relaxed lighting and Ben and Max Ringham’s music and sound compositions.
It is commendable for a project to promote accessible theatre. It was encouraging to see at the programmes stalls in the foyer a wide range of programmes being done in Braille, large print and the availability of audio guides.
Excellent convincing lead performances by Robin Morrissey and David Carlyle and rest of the cast didn’t go unnoticed. Clever use of comedic elements reminds one there are outstanding issues in society to ponder over which shows The Government Inspector is just as relevant today than in the past.