Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector is often viewed as an entertaining yet enlightening critique on the state of affairs in Imperial Russia. Gogol’s portrayal of the corruption that dominated the country upon the play’s debut in 1836 is hilariously exposed in his satirical presentation of events. For their first production, the Woodsworth Performing Arts Collective (WolfPAC) staged this well-known comedy of errors.
The play features the arrival of a Khlestakov, presumed to be a high-ranking government inspector, into a town full of corrupt politicians, including the governor and his family. The town politicians each attempt to bribe Khlestakov, not realizing he is a travelling trickster.
The three-night showing took place in the Sam Sorbara auditorium at Brennan Hall and featured a modest set. On Friday night, the audience matched the modesty of the set — not unexpected for a debut performance of a theatre company established this year.
The cast showed great promise with some particularly memorable performances by Christopher Shackleton as the governor, Madeleine Swinkin as his wife, and Chelsea Dab Hilke as the infamous Khlestakov. The entire script of the play stayed true to Gogol and had the audience laughing with its physical comedy. In particular, the characters of Piotr Ivanovich Dobchinsky and Piotr Ivanovich Bobchinsky, two squires played respectively by Lawrence Zhang and Rion Chow, stole the show with their slapstick humour.
After some initial lack of flow in set change, the play picked up and grew more coherent. The actors did an excellent job of using their space to transition from scene to scene, as well as smartly using flashy red papers as rubles to bribe the inspector and make clear to the audience the blatant corruption working within the script.
Not only was the audience amused — the Gogolian messages were also well-articulated. The actors in turn seemed to have fun with the script, staying true to the original material while interpreting a good deal of the play’s physicality and over-the-top nature.
The WolfPAC debut performance shows a lot of promise, gaining the collective some ground in the world of U of T campus theatre.