Sunday, October 02, 2011


Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court

How to make Gogol's classic satirical farce work for our times ? Bungs and backhanders are no less prevalent than they were in19th century Russia, I'd guess, but the characters are very much of their era.

The Young Vic this year chose a traditional take, involving the audience in the cartoon world of small town politics. Danny Segeth, for CTW, took a more radical line. A cast of young comedy actors, a black box, a version [after Alistair Beaton] which moves everything to today's UK, and a generous dollop of physical theatre.

How successful this approach is will depend on how amusing you find the performances, and whether you can accept a world with emails but no phones, where the Mayor actually runs the “nasty little town”, vodka and madeira are the tipples of choice and fresh salmon is delivered to the hotel restaurant.

Gold star for effort to Ian Eagleton, whose Director of Education was a mass of tics and grimaces, speechless with nerves. Joe Kennedy was a greasy, greedy Mayor, and there were two nice double acts, from John Mabey and Anna Rogers as the gossips, and from Fabienne Hanley and Leanna Johnson as the Mayor's grotesque wife and daughter – think Ugly Sisters. As the mystery inspector, James Christie used his comic presence to excellent effect – his drunk scene was masterly – and he was well supported by Gemma Robinson as his valet [in this version a slightly superfluous “friend”].

Especially at the start, a more manic pace would have suited the style, but there were lovely sequences, such as the planning of the inspections, and Khelly trousering “loans” from a queue of frightened officials. The movement work was directed by Catherine Hitchins: I liked the final sequence [“Regret”] which forced us to reflect on the human failings behind the farce.

production photo: James Sabbarton

No comments:

Post a Comment