Thurs 1st March - Sat 3rd March & Thurs 8th March - Sat 10th March 1979
Directed by Sharon Morris
"If one is to laugh, then let us at least laugh at those things which deserve to be laughed at." GOGOL.
Gogol started writing The Government Inspector in 1834, and less than two years later the comedy was the greatest theatrical event of the season. It was first performed in the presence of the Tsar Nicholas I on March 19th 1836. The entire play is based on mistaken identity and on the panic caused - for good reasons - among the officials. The actual theme is supposed to have been suggested by Pushkin and in its time it was considered a daring piece of work.
The play is set in the early 1800s in a small Russian town where there is corruption among officials. The mayor receives a message that there is to be a visit by a government inspector who will be travelling incognito. The officials are anxious to get the town straightened out and act in a very sycophantic fashion to impress a man they believe to be the inspector. The work portrays harshly the deep corruption of powers in Tsarist Russia, the failings of human greed and the stupidity of the gullible.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|The Mayor||John Scadding|
|The Judge||Alan Knight|
|The Charity Commissioner||Terry Cattermole|
|The Schools' Superintendent||Anthony Elliott|
|The Postmaster||Peter Duncan|
|The District Physician||David Penrose|
|The Police Inspector||Chris Shaw|
|Peter Ivanovich Bobchinsky||David Spackman|
|Peter Ivanovich Dobchinsky||Derek Cusdin|
|Ivan Alexandrovich Khlyestakov||Spokey Wheeler|
|Anna Andreyevna||Eve Moore|
|Maria Antonovna||Anne Brodrick|
|The Locksmith's Wife||Jen Jones|
|The Sergeant's Widow||Robbie Cattermole|
|Korobkin's Wife||Janet Shaw|
|Schools' Superintendent's Wife||Nicola Fraser|
|A Waitress||Janet Simpson|
|A Gendarme||Narinder Dhillon|
|Stage Manager||Paul Morris|
|Lighting Design||Tony Terribile|
|Lights and Sound||Jill Sawyer|
|Front of House||Sheila Spackman|
|Poster Design||David Penrose|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Mary Lowes |
A very warm welcome to you from The Bench, sentiments that will be doubly appreciated by our regular patrons who might already have noticed the new 'instant heat' units suspended from the ceiling. These were installed courtesy of the Arts Centre and several volunteer electricians, just before our special 1890's Music Hall production in January. The place is definitely improving by degrees! On the subject of that special production... as some consolation for the unfortunate many who were unable to obtain tickets, the tremendous success of the Music Hall has prompted discussion of several possible follow-ups. We will keep you posted.
Forgivable first-night hitches failed to mar Nikolai Gogol's superb comedy 'The Government Inspector,' the latest offering by Havant's Bench Theatre. With the Bench's biggest cast for years - 29 in all - director Sharon Morris had her work cut out to accomplish this period play - and for a while she seemed unlikely to succeed. But as awkward first act smoothed out as the cast and unusually cool audience warmed to Gogol's fine and witty comments on petty corruption among town officials, set in Imperial Russia of the 1830s. Havant's Mayor-elect Captain James Hulme was on hand to chuckle at the agonies of Gogol's provincial mayor who, frantically kicking over the traces of small-town corruption, resorts to bribery to appease a visiting Government Inspector. This long-lingering laugh at the antics of terror-stricken town fathers who mistake a visiting dandy for the fearsome government official is tackled by a task of widely differing abilities.
Stealing the show as Khlyestakov, the foppish and unscrupulous spendthrift with the amazing streak of luck, is Spokey Wheeler, who wins his audience's affection from the word go as he cashes in on this case of mistaken identity by raking in hush money from the frightened officials. It took a while longer for John Scadding to make his mark as the mayor fighting to avoid the salt mines of Siberia, but the audience's patience was amply rewarded when he settled in to his role. Also off to a shaky start, but making a splendid finish were David Spackman and Derek Cusdin in Tweedledee and Tweedledum roles as Bobchinski and Dobchinski.
Ian Nelson deserves praise as wily old Ossip, the staggering servant as does David Penrose as the garlic-breathing German doctor who, not speaking the Russian tongue has little to say and is oblivious to events, but delights the audience with his display of mannerism and mind expressions. With such a large cast crammed in to so small a space, thoughtful stage direction is vital, and with 'The Government Inspector', the Bench has surpassed even its usual high standard with good positioning, plenty of movement, and involvement of the minor characters. 'The Government Inspector' is being performed a Havant Arts Centre at 7.30 p.m. tonight, tomorrow and from Thursday to Saturday of next week.
The News, 2nd March 1979