The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol, adapted by Renée Basilico

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BBC Radio 7, 18 April 2008
Renée Basilico’s adaptation of Gogol’s The Government Inspector was the second revival of the play I had encountered inside four weeks. The earlier production at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater was an unmitigated disaster, with the cast clad in grotesque costumes rushing about the stage and shouting their lines at the tops of their voices. Happily there was not of that John Fawcett Wilson’s meticulous production. The central was on the provincial community, whose rigid hierarchy and complacent attitudes proved ripe for exploitation by Khlestakov (Julian Rhind-Tutt). Every official hated everyone else; they stopped at nothing to achieve their ends. Khlestakov took full advantage of this; the more they tried to placate him, the more he exploited their jealousy.


Gogol’s play is actually very misogynist in tone: women become pawns in the officials’ struggle for Khlestakov’s favour, and have no real means to resist. Eventually the play comes to a comic climax as the officials realize they have been outwitted and start fighting with one another. Meanwhile Khlestakov completes the coup de grace by writing a letter telling exactly what he thinks of all of them. This moment was especially savage in Wilson’s revival, with Rhind-Tutt delivering the lines in a bitter rasp, demonstrating his contempt for all the officials. He felt no remorse: they were so blind that robbing them was as easy as picking apples off a tree.