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  • Henry Longstaff

The Government Inspector - Marylebone Theatre

Kiell Smith-Bynoe shines in this underwhelming farce

The Government Inspector
Photography - Oliver King


Nikolai Gogol’s renowned comedy has been adapted and updated for the 2020s and it is a little on the nose. Obvious nods to conservative corruption and ageing Jackie Weaver references cannot salvage a script that lacks a narrative purpose and drive beyond its clumsy finger-pointing - a shame considering the stacked comedic talent present on the Marylebone stage.

Shifted in setting to an English town run by a raft of corrupt local officials, the play sees Percy Fopdoodle (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) mistaken for a Government Inspector tasked with uncovering dodgy dealings and unscrupulous behaviour. The crooked council, led by Governor Swashprattle (Dan Skinner) bend over backwards to bribe and charm the assumed inspector in an effort to save themselves, unaware that he is in fact of no importance.

Kiell Smith-Bynoe is unquestionably the star of this production, his over the top poshness hits the spot perfectly and his impressive ability to spew out utter comedic nonsense with the force of a hefty laxative is magnificent - a well-cast scene stealer with a larger-than-life presence. He leads the ensemble cast well, controlling the tempo with ease but is let down by a script that doesn’t know where it is going. 

Dan Skinner as the Governor and Martha Howe-Douglas as his wife make for a delightful pair but struggle to leave the same humorous stamp within the confines of the script. They are both bombastic and energetic but the text restricts their delivery. The cast are clearly all talented and equipped with intelligent comedic timing, and much of adaptor and director Patrick Myles’s direction is able to draw this out. However the ensemble characters of the council lack distinction and exist as a large mass rather than individuals which means their individual scenes drip with duplication and drag as a result. 

Beyond some neat costume work, much of the design is sparse and vague leaving me wanting a tad more - representative of the show as a whole. I admire the creative vision and it was nice to witness an old-school farce updated for the challenging time we find ourselves in, but the serious undertones that the piece sought to convey never materialised and the farce is therefore halfhearted.  

Running until 15th June - Tickets

Photography - Oliver King

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