Some of you may have already heard that my new favourite thing in London is the combination of Camden’s Theatre Collection and the Lord Stanley pub, above which this arty little jem resides. This dramatic mini explosion founded by Victor Sobchak and Shaban Arifi really is a perfect day out.
If you haven’t heard about them – where have you been? And if you saw my last article on The Idiot, and still haven’t visited- why not? My second eagerly anticipated visit, was for last Sunday’s matinee performance of Gogol’s The Government Inspector.
The great thing about The Government Inspector is that it is so unusually comic and if you choose to take that for all it is, you can. This satire’s plot is founded on the most traditional source of comedy- mistaken identity. And this alone leads to a spiralling story of misunderstandings, lies and one very naughty lead character.
The funny thing here is that you cannot truly like any of the characters. Not a single one of them is painted as the good, mighty or saint like. No, in The Government Inspector Gogol mocks every single character one by one, using stereotypes of everyday society, with each of them as greedy and corrupt as the next.
Even though Gogol wrote this over a century ago, it’s incredible how well these stereotypes still work in our modern day society. Firstly you have the lead character, Khlestakov, played brilliantly by Shaban Arifi himself, as the well bred but skint young man on his way home from Moscow, having spent his money on food, booze and women. What a scoundrel! Then there’s his self promoting, long suffering servant Osip, another excellently played character by Andy King, with his general dislike of his master, living firm in the knowledge that what’s good for his master will inevitability be good for him too.
Of course for those wanting to read into the social contextual theories of what Gogol had to say by writing a satire of this kind, there is the mayor, played by Steve While, a truly putrid official; the real embodiment of Gogol’s thoughts on Russia’s society and political bodies at that time. The mayor’s daughter Marya is also a brilliantly portrayed ditzy country girl, by Emma Rose Richardson, along with her self-important mother Anna played by Vera Horton. All in all, the entire cast worked brilliantly together in this intimate space.
So be you an arty independent theatre type, new to London and just out to explore the scene, or an adventurous urbanite looking for your next thing to do, I implore you to give the unique Theatre Collection a go.