Updating Gogol’s satire of human greed and relocating it to an obscure Pennine town has such an impact that one wonders why Northern Broadsides has never done it before. The town is so out of the way that no-one knows, or seemingly cares, if it is in Yorkshire or Lancashire. Now that is obscurity. This adaptation brings together the creative team of writer Deborah McAndrew and director Conrad Nelson for their first time, for Broadsides, since their deserved critical success with Accidental Death of an Anarchist (2008).
Andy Cryer (Longbottom), Hoiward Chadwick as (Councillor Tony Belcher) and Kraig Thornber (Sidebottom) in A Government Inspector at Harrogate Theatre Photo: Nobby Clark
Brass band music, blunt northern humour and self-serving characters abound. The brass instruments are played by the actors and, in a moment of neat theatrical wit, the instruments become the townsfolk - venting their anger at Howard Chadwick’s corrupt council leader. To begin with the humour does struggle, jokes are rather too “trouble at mill” but the farcical situations soon bring their comic rewards.
For any staging of A Government Inspector to succeed it obviously has to have, as the supposed government inspector, an anarchic, energetic actor who can grab this play and make it his own while carrying the cast with him. Jon Trenchard does just that, but is hampered by overly camp playing when he first appears. His key scene, in which he exaggerates his own importance in the musical, literary and political worlds - with stinging satirical barbs - is as wild and fantastic as it should be.
This Broadsides production is one of three touring northern plays being premiered at Harrogate Theatre in one month. Here is a theatre with vision and confidence.