Humour as an art is subjective and that counts for plays with a strong comedic element as well as stand up. One person’s idea of going to the theatre and howling out loud like a total idiot every time the players open their mouths suits their entertainment needs, whilst others, like me, sit stony faced wondering what the heck is so funny whilst eking out the occasional appreciative smile. Ask around, this situation is not so uncommon. One man’s dislike of Lee Evans (all gurning, stupid voices, contortion and acrobatics) is another person’s love of Eddie Izzard (surreal self-effacing sense of humour mixed with a dry intelligence and gender awareness). You can’t like everything can you? What one finds funny as a teenager gradually ( and hopefully) evolves into something more mature and subtle as an adult.
The Lace Market Theatre’s current production of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector (or a little local difficulty) adapted by Philip Goulding runs at The Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 4th March 2023. It is directed by Matthew Huntbach with set design by Nik Hedges. The excellent lighting is by David Billen.
There are many good things in this imaginatively done show to appreciate either directly by watching (obvs) or on reflection. Nik Hedges’ off-kilter absurdist set and wonky table are perfect for this madcap style of production. There are some stand-out performances from Melvyn Rawlingson (Young Willy Wilson), Richard Young (Mr Robson), Amanda Pierce (Anna), Chloe McKiernan (Maria) and Louis Street (Petty). The ensemble are very well directed by Matthew Huntbach and all show a disciplined dedication to the cartoon-like way of presenting their characters and situations. As is very often the case with the high-quality Lace Market Theatre amateur productions the costumes are excellently chosen.
The pace is fast although I struggle a little to keep up with the storyline as the performance focus is heavily biased towards the physical comedy further abstracted by the playing style chosen by the company. As I mentioned at the start of this review – comedy as an artform is subjective. Very subjective. Not being a massive fan of broad physical comedy and OTT characterisation, much in this production leaves me feeling like the grumpy git sitting on J row whilst most of the audience grin, smile and laugh at the antics unfolding. I do however like the physical theatre aspects and these are well done taking a lot of discipline to learn and to perform every night. Thanks be to goodness we don’t all find the same things funny. It’d be a funny old world if we did. Or not… I don’t know – I’ve lost the plot… I might have left it under my seat in row J.