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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.

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."

The cast of 10 is now well into its third week of rehearsals and Mulgrew seems to be enjoying life on the Welsh coast. "I've never worked in Wales before so this is a very exciting project for me," says the man who studied in Scotland and Paris before co-founding Communicado in 1983 and becoming artistic director in 1986. "I've not seen much of Wales yet - only Aberystwyth and the inside of the rehearsal room. But I've got an apartment which looks out to sea."

He says rehearsals are "going well".

"Everyone's concentrating on what they have to do. We hope we get an audience now," he laughs.

He believes that audiences will relate to Gogol's observations.

The Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist, novelist and short story writer was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism.

Later critics have found in Gogol's work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of surrealism and the grotesque.

Early in his career Gogol was best known for his short stories, which gained him the admiration of the Russian literary circle, including Pushkin.

His first attempt to write a satirical play about imperial bureaucracy in 1832 was abandoned out of fear of censorship. In 1835, when he was seeking inspiration for a new satirical play, he discovered Pushkin had once been mistaken for a government inspector in 1833 - and so the drama was born.

"It has timeless appeal," says Mulgrew.

"It's about the nuances of corruption and bribery. Some characters claim they don't take bribes - they only accept gifts. It all rings so true to what goes on today."

The Government Inspector is at Aberystwyth Arts Centre from February 27 to March 2; Torch Theatre, Milford Haven on March 5 & 6; Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon on March 8 & 9; Theatr Hafren, Newtown on March 12 & 13; Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea on March 15 & 16; Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan on March 19 & 20; Sherman Cymru, Cardiff on March 22 & 23

CAPTION(S):

Kate Quinnell as Marya and Oliver Lavery as Khlestakov

Stephen Marzella as The Governor
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 22, 2013
Words:721
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