This reviewer makes no excuse for simply copying the Ramps On The Moon promotion from the leaflet promoting The Government Inspector currently on tour from Birmingham Rep and here it is at the fore of the review. It is that important. It demonstrates, as does the actual play, that with imagination, the talents of Deaf and disabled actors can and should be considered and utilised when casting plays.
‘Ramps On The Moon is a ground-breaking touring project which signals a change in the UK’s disability arts provision. Bringing together six major theatres, alongside strategic partner Graeae, it will change the way theatre is made by and for Deaf and disabled people is seen. These companies are committed to putting Deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work; to accelerate positive change, and stimulate awareness of disability issues within arts and culture.’
This seven venue tour of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector adapted by David Harrower currently resides at Nottingham Playhouse. The Playhouse is a very active promoter of this type of theatre with past successes of the recent authentically cast Kings, the inclusion of a disabled wheelchair using central character in The Glass Menagerie and a storming production of The Threepenny Opera by Graeae.
The cast in The Government Inspector, directed by Roxana Silbert, are universally brilliant and ridiculously funny as people in a Russian township and their Mayor believe that a Government Inspector is in town and they are all terrified that he is going to expose all of their corrupt ways and habits of happily taking bribes. The piece is very physical and fast moving and the cast seem to delight in finding the humour in their disabilities. All performances of this play are fully accessible including a very creative combination of sign language, audio description and captioning.
Top acting honours must go to Kiruna Stamell and Francesca Mills as mother and daughter Anna and Maria as well as their father the Mayor played in frantic style by David Carlyle. All are incredibly funny in their own way and Mills once again shows off her brilliant comic timing so much enjoyed in Warwick Davies’ The Reduced Height Theatre Company’s popular farce See How They Run. The top class cast of eighteen all work tirelessly to present sterling and accessible production and the technical team work wonders with a combination of a transparent set and use of projection and audio description. There is live signing by the artists themselves and it fits beautifully smack in the middle of the fluid action – not resigned to the side of the stage. This reviewer particularly liked the quick and dramatic light changes where the character reveal their real thoughts on the action unfolding to the audience.
With the nature of dramatic irony one knows what the final outcome is likely to be. It is made clear that the character Khlestakov (played with great style and energy by Robin Morrissey) is an imposter taking full advantage of the townsfolk and their misapprehension that he is the supposed inspector. That’s the fun of dramatic irony – enjoying knowing what the characters on stage appear to be ignorant of.
This is a superb, highly inventive and comical production of a Russian comedy and as the German character says at one point- it is ‘Wunderbar!’
Runs at Nottingham Playhouse until 14th May.
Photo credit: Robert Day.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe