The Government Inspector
15 May 2014
MUST Theatre at Monash Uni, Clayton
to 24 May
When Simon Stone re-worked Nikoli Gogol's Not-The Government Inspector earlier in the year, the MUST (Monash University Student Theatre) mob were a bit miffed, or maybe excited, because they were planning their own re-working of the 1936 play.
Theirs is nothing like Stone's. While that Inspector was a reflection of audience and the type of theatre commercial audiences like to see, MUST's is a reflection of society and the type of theatre that indie creators want to make.
The satirical Russian play is about corrupt officials in a small town expecting a visit by a government inspector. They mistake a visitor for the inspector and the visitor proceeds to enjoy the special treatment and bribes.
Director James Jackson (who's doing Honours at Monash) developed the re-working with his cast (Akhila Epa, Alex Beyer, Amanda Giannarus, Chloe Smith, Emily Stokes, Sam Nix, Shamita Sivabalan and Verity Norbury).
And it's far from a text-on-stage production.
In a wire cage, the performers are in full length overalls that could place them in any prison or workplace. There's the threat of torture and no one's really in control. Then Gogol calls in because he's not happy with the beginning, so it's time to bring out the feathered fans and a party box of coloured balls.
There's reference to the original text, but it's just the starting point to find the issues its creators are concerned and angry about. And with Putin's politics sending Russia backwards, there's plenty to choose from that is just as relevant to us, especially in this horror-Budget week where Australian politics are hurtling backwards as well.
From the mesmerisingly bleak to a Putin dance that would get them arrested in Russia, this Inspector plays with time and endurance and leaves its audience questioning everything they see. There's plenty of nods to theatre styles and makers, but Jackson is finding his own theatrical voice and it's one that's sure to make its presence felt in years to come.
And it's worth seeing even if only to compare to Stone's.