Preview-The Government Inspector-Shadow Players


By: Meaghan McGurgan

When the Governor of a little Russian town mistakes Ivan Khlestakov, a destitute civil servant, for an important inspector from St. Petersburg, Khlestakov milks the Governor and his officials for all they’re worth. How far will the incompetent, backstabbing officials go to hide their mistakes, and what can Ivan get away with? Worse still, what on earth will they all do when the real inspector arrives?

Many of you may remember last year’s production of The Learned Ladies of Midlevels by Shadow Players that was widely praised by fans and our critic, Leeann Bennett. The show even walked away with a Heckler last year for Best Supporting Actress. Shadow Players is back with their next production, Gogol’s The Government Inspector. This is easily his most prolific work, conquering topics like government corruption, bureaucracy and bribery with brilliant satire and wit. Government corruption is a hot button topic in Hong Kong now but director Julian Lamb was careful not to be too heavy handed with the parallels between Gogol’s work and what’s currently happening in Hong Kong. “We made a conscious decision to not adapt this to a Hong Kong setting. Satire works much more effectively if there is distance between audience and text. The parallels are obvious enough: a small town long way away from the capital, that feels a liberty to do largely what it wants, but recognises that real power resides elsewhere, and that Big Brother might be watching. As far as current events go, we will perform the play and allow audiences to draw their own conclusions.”

Fans of last year’s Learned Ladies will be happy to see some repeat faces from last year’s play in the cast of The Government Inspector. Audiences might remember Bernice: a woman who thinks that every man is in love with her. Heckler nominee and fan favorite Francis Chan will be playing Khlestakov in this production.


Fans of Gogol’s work will be happy to see the artistic team’s dedication to promoting this playwright’s work but they are also hoping to introduce new audience members to this theatre classic. Julian Lamb, the director, explains: “The Government Inspector is one of those plays which directors have felt free to adapt, recontextualise or merely use very loosely. And Gogol enthusiasts would be used to seeing the play in a variety of guises… Our production attempts to draw to light two main things which (we hope!) will please those familiar and unfamiliar with Gogol... The whole play builds towards its final moment when the real government inspector arrives and the townsfolk stand to be judged by him. One of the first items of set that the audience will see upon entering the theatre is a big door. The townsfolk wait the whole play long for a knock upon that door. Of course, this is not simply a literal knock upon the door: it is death and final judgement.”

They’ve even come up with a fun way to do their scene changes that is anything but ordinary (or easy from the sounds of it...) Joseph Lin explains: “Whenever there’s a scene change, characters on stage freeze and become mannequins, while stagehands come out with trolleys to cart and manipulate the actors and the set into position. This will (hopefully) look funny and cool when combined with lighting and music, but the choreography involved means we have to be very fast and accurate in our movements and timing. Maintaining freezes while others cart you around is also a surprisingly unnerving experience but we’re powering through these with sheer YOUTH and FUN ! (that, and under the piercing gimlet eyes of our director...)”


The cast and crew had a lot of fun in the rehearsal room practicing their prat falls and physical comedy. The Government Inspector is a very physical piece and the cast had to trust each other very quickly. There is one part of the show where an actor has to fall off a table into a crowd of people; this took quite a bit of rehearsal. “We did a lot of tests and trust-building exercises to make sure everything would be safe. That prudence meant we had a lot of practice in falling off high places and catching people, and now whenever there’s a break we just find places to jump from and play catch!,” laughs Joseph.

The Government Inspector is playing at the Fringe Underground Theatre from June 25th to June 28th. Showtimes are at 7:30pm and there’s an additional 2:30pm matinee on Saturday. There has been a slight adaptation to the original script that makes this piece around 90 minutes, so don’t get all worried about sitting through a three hour Russian play. Tickets are 250HKD with additional discounts for students, seniors, persons with disabilities and Fringe Club Members. Tickets are on sale now via HKticketing.

Jospeph Lin, who is playing the Governor, thinks audience members will like The Governor Inspector because “This play is rich in high and low comedy, with biting satire and physical gags… What’s more, this show is a labour of love by dedicated young ’uns contributing to the theatre scene in Hong Kong, so watching our show means you get to laugh, feel hip and congratulate yourself for concretely advancing the Arts in the city.”

For more information about this production, click here.


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