JAMES STANIFORTH’s inspection finds this production below industry standards.
Corpus Playroom, 6th-10th March, 7pm, £5-6
Directed by Charlotte Quinney
This is a challenging play to bring to the stage. A successful modern rendering of Gogol’s satirical masterpiece requires a firm and intelligent handling of the script by cast and director. This production unfortunately seemed to get lost in translation.
One of the feature failures of this production in the first half was a lack of coherence. Scenes simply didn’t bind together properly. The actors involved seemed unsure how to act, or react to, the material they had been given and the result was a palpable flatness in the early scenes.
As a caveat I should point out that Gogol’s dialogue isn’t exactly comedy gold – indeed, both the audience and cast seemed perplexed as to where exactly the laughs were supposed to fall.
Performances were also marred by a lack of tightness and subtlety. Isabella Kettle’s bullish Mayor was, well, bullish – and not much else. As she dominated many of the early scenes, this quickly became wearing. A more sensitive and controlled approach would have been nice to see.
Other characters seemed at times to get lost in the tangents of the script and had trouble finding their way out. In general, the early scenes simply felt too loose and frenetic, and failed to engage. Hellie Cranney and Kassie Chalk as Bobchinsky and Dobchinsky did, however, provide some much-needed levity.
The play then unexpectedly took on a new life in the second half. The increased visibility of Khlestakov, played with finesse by Olivia Emden, invigorated the audience and dispersed the increasingly stale atmosphere which had collected throughout the first hour.
As the play progressed, many of the issues present early on became less prevalent as the cast seemed to find their groove in the script. For the conclusion, its comedic impact and political message finally intensified. The disturbing climax was the high-point of the work, staged and executed with a controlled ferocity.
The fundamental problem with this play seemed to be one of interpretation. A greater certainty of cast and director with regards to the script from the get-go would have allowed the audience to experience the potential power of it more fully.
As it was, the production gave a fairly standard rendering of Gogol’s material. It seems more than plausible, however, that as the run continues a greater confidence and familiarity between cast and script might lift this production.