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The Government Inspector review at Birmingham Repertory Theatre – ‘exciting, inventive, hilarious’

Scene from The Government Inspector at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Photo: Robert Day Scene from The Government Inspector at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Photo: Robert Day

If this fantastic production from Birmingham Repertory Theatre, presented as part of the Ramps on the Moon project, is anything to go by, we’re moving away from the time where BSL and captioned performances felt like afterthoughts, or in some way secondary. In this new take on Gogol’s The Government Inspector the captions, the BSL and the audio-description are – as in the work of Graeae – made an integral part of the production, and it works spectacularly well.

Roxana Silbert’s production is a breathlessly exciting, charming and silly. David Harrower’s adaptation draws out the humour of Gogol’s satire on small town bureaucracy and brings to it a surreal edge. Ti Green’s design is very effective, giving the production a Grand Budapest Hotel sheen while not over-filling the stage, instead leaving plenty of room for Silbert and her company of actors – deaf, disabled and non-disabled alike – to create some beautifully crafted and playful ensemble work. Initially, it takes a while to work out how all the elements fit together (are the signer and the speaker two actors playing the same character, or two different characters?) but after a while you become accustomed to it.

This is a production of dry wit and deft touches, a fast-paced, genuinely funny reworking of a Russian masterpiece, an exciting example of disability arts and culture in action, and a great piece of theatre to boot.

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Hilarious and inventive adaptation that explodes the way disability is treated in the theatre