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fingerless theatre : the government inspector @ flow studios

Nikolai Gogol’s much loved satirical drama, The Government Inspector, is a MUST SEE.  Adapted and directed by Australian Alex Kendall Robson, this 1836 classic springs to life with its cast of thirteen, its clever minimalist set and the colourful costumes. The lampoonery engages the audience from the start, all the way through to the end. Gogol fans know the ending already, but in this production the journey is to those last few seconds at the end is an absolute delight.

Lib Campbell plays the lead, Ivan Aleksandrovich Khlestakov, an ‘Official from St Petersburg’.  Her physicality in the role is brilliantly over-the-top. She bends, twists, leaps and pounces. All the actors are superb – Shaw Cameron, Raechyl French, Zachary Aleksander, Jade Fuda, Alex Kendall Robson, Sonya Kerr, Jack Elliot Mitchell, Andrew Eddey, Hannah Buckley, Harrison Collis Oates, Mitchell Frederick Stewart and Zachary Bandiera-Dunn.
The bare space, theatre-in-the-round seating and minimalist set all ‘set the scene’ for audience engagement. The physical precision is flawless – chairs are stacked, swapped, stood on and encircled in seconds. The players dash, flop, leap and swirl seamlessly. The production could be in the genre of ‘physical theatre’. The use of the balcony is effective. The warehouse theatre space is informal, fun and delightfully unpretentious.

Lily Moody’s costumes deserve applause. Sonya Kerr plays the Chairperson of the Mayoral Advisory Board on Matters of Charity, Humanity and Philanthropy (you just have to love that title) – in a green pastel dress and stockings with turquoise back seam.  This attention to colour coordination is everywhere. Ivan’s tie is green, shirt is red, trousers are light green and socks are red. Ivan is often standing beside a character with the opposite combination: first red then green all the way down to the socks. The Mayor’s daughter wears green dress with pink crinoline peeping underneath and a multicolour top.

In a bare grey space with the audience surrounding the players, this colour coordination draws the audience to the players, keeping our eyes dashing from one colour to the next. Just brilliant costume design.

Set in Imperial Russia, beset by government pork barrelling, bribery, and police brutality, Gogol’s masterpiece reminds us of our own dilemmas: David McBride, the  whistle-blower who revealed the  war crimes committed by a some of our Special Forces; the Robodebt horrors; the whistle-blower who exposed Australia’s spy operation in Timor-Leste.  Australia is not Imperial Russia because we have wonderfully creative theatre companies that keep reminding us of the possibilities.

Performing 30th Nov – 9th December 2023

Flow Studios,  57 Denison St, Camperdown , just west of Sydney University off Parramatta Road, plenty of parking.


Production photography by Tim Hope

Review by Carol Dance


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