Socialist Worker

Biting 19th century satire of corruption The Government Inspector has still got teeth

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2506

The Cast of the Ramps on the Moon production of the Government Inspector

The Cast of the Ramps on the Moon production of the Government Inspector (Pic: Robert Day)

Director Roxana Silbert breaks new ground with her take on The Government Inspector, a 19th century morality play on corruption.

Written by the Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol in 1836, it is a brutal satire on small-town corruption in Russia under the absolute rule of the Tsar.

When it was published, the Tsarist press went berserk. This time round the Daily Telegraph newspaper has asked whether it is “political correctness gone mad”.

With a cast of mainly disabled actors, it uses a mixture of sign language, audio descriptions and captions on stage to make it fully accessible.

Refreshingly, the signing is not an added extra, but an integral part of the play.

The cast brings the satire to life. David Carlyle, as the mayor of the town, fills the theatre with his presence.

As the town learns that an undercover government inspector is coming from the capital St Petersburg, the mayor and his whole entourage go wild.

The Mayor barks orders as he frantically runs around the stage and exchanges snarky comments with the local police.


They soon go to the inn and find who they believe is the inspector. In reality, it’s Khlestakov (Robin Morrissey), a penniless low grade civil servant and con man who can’t believe his luck.

He’s so absorbed in his own narcissism he initially doesn’t even realise he’s been mistaken for the inspector. Khlestakov proceeds to take bribes from the only too willing officials one by one.

Some of the initial energy dissipates during the production’s second half, but the play remains relentless.

Human relationships are built purely around corruption.

Everyone is in everyone else’s pocket, everyone is out to deceive one another—there isn’t a single sympathetic character.

This makes it both captivating and profoundly alienating. But this tension is sporadically released when the Mayor has brief moments of doubt.

A lone blue spotlight shines down on the Mayor as he confesses to the audience, “I am a sinner”.

The dialogue could easily be a The Thick of It-style satire on political corruption today.

The Government Inspector

Directed by Roxana Silbert

Touring Liverpool and Sheffield

Go to

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 31 May 2016, 16:00 BST
Issue No. 2506
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.