This year’s Christmas Production of The Government Inspector was a sharply executed satire on the perils of greed and corruption. Set in provincial Russia, though it could have been any nation’s rural backwater, a small town had been run into the ground by the corrupt practices of its officials.
The Mayor, played by Fredi Traish (Fifth Form, Swift) with seething paranoia and energy, was ably supported by his cronies in their mission to cover up their ill-gotten gains. This corrupt cadre consisted of Hayden Camidge (Fourth Form, Vanbrugh), Sam Bird (Lower Sixth, Harcourt), Alex Cooper (Lower Sixth, Gascoigne), Tara Devine (Fourth Form, Queen Anne), Izzy Ponsford (Fifth Form, Gascoigne) and Hugo Robathan (Second Form, Gascoigne) who were delightfully devious and inept in their futile attempts to bribe their way out of a crisis.
The action focused around the arrival of the penniless snob Kylstekov, Ardan Devine (Upper Sixth, Queen Anne) and his cynical servant Ossip, James Davis (Fifth Form, Harcourt). The world-weariness of James’s everyman role was expertly crafted and counterbalanced the wonderful squawking foppishness of Ardan’s character. Mistaken for a government official, Ardan’s Kylestekov was a masterclass in comic timing, veering between impotent outrage, simpering feebleness and slimy seduction. He was outstanding in the role and watching him run rings around the spiky Anna, Lydia Wannell (Lower Sixth, Feilden) and gawky Maria (Ruby Plumridge (Fifth Form, Gascoigne) was a joy.
There were many examples of excellent support from the large cast, especially the cackling Babushkas and their rioting pack of maltreated townsfolk. Particular mention must be made of the twins Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky, Frankie Brown (Fourth Form, Vanbrugh) and Molly Cockin (Fourth Form, Vanbrugh) who were hilarious as the dim-witted and gabbling town gossips. This was a complex and difficult play to perform, which won praise from all who saw it. The ability to carry such loaded satire with verbal wit and wordplay was outstanding. This young cast, who all played with a maturity quite beyond their years are emblematic of the ever-growing pool of talent at Cokethorpe and the many years of dramatic future ahead.