by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Clive Hirschhorn, February 1985

On entering the vast open spaces of the Olivier Theatre your eye is assailed by a gigantic back-cloth covered in larger-than-life bills, receipts and routine paper work of the kind you would expect to find in a local government inspector’s office.

It is an overwhelming image and, although brilliantly conceived by designer John Gunter, more appropriate to a panto than Gogol’s deeply cynical farce The Government Inspector newly translated by Adrian Mitchell.

Indeed, Gunter’s eye catching designs dominate the play to such an extent that this famous tale of a lowly clerk from St. Petersburg who draws mileage from being mistaken for the Czar’s government inspector by a corrupt local governor and his equally corrupt officials, is forced to stand on its head and pull faces to be noticed.

As a result there is a desperation about Richard Eyre’s direction which, while occasionally yielding moments of inspired lunacy, I found extremely tiresome. It would all have worked so much better confined to the smaller, more intimate Cottesloe Theatre next door.

Apart from the sets the production is dominated by two equally larger-than-life performances: Jim Broadbent as the blustery governor, and Rik Mayall as the charlatan inspector.

Mayall, with his tacky line in ersatz dandyism and his blatantly shallow attempts to impress as a St. Petersburg sophisticate, gives a performance rich in idiosyncratic touches. He is very funny, and because he does not strain for laughs they are consistently forthcoming.

All the same, more money than artistic sense is in evidence-to the detriment of a popular classic.