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A Government Inspector

Rory ffoulkes

Sunday 16 September 2012

Feeding on the universal mistrust of local authorities and the people that run them, Northern Broadsides’ A Government Inspector sees the Pennine town’s councillors fly into a blind panic when news reaches them that a government big-wig from London is in town.

He is apparently here to give it a secret inspection. The councillors, united in their incompetence and corruption, fear this could cost them their jobs and power.

The only thing is the character Snapper that they think is the government inspector isn’t. Instead, he is a chancer: a foppish, small-fry Whitehall clerk down on his luck after being cleaned out in yet another card game.

Snapper is unable to pay the bills he’s accrued at the town’s grotty inn and is in big trouble, as his world-weary assistant Frank is only too aware. It’s difficult to see how he’s going to get out of this one. Help of an unexpected kind, though, is on its way in the form of Belcher and his gullible partners in bribery.

The best thing about A Government Inspector as a political satire is that it doesn’t alienate its audience by attempting to be too clever. That’s not to say that it isn’t sharp or witty: it is – incredibly so, on both counts, and hugely enjoyable to boot, with the Ancient Greek theatre chorus effect an innovative delight.

The cast is outstanding, with not a weak link among them, and the script awash with wonderful contemporary references to the expenses scandal, Cameron’s ‘Cornish Pasty fiasco’, government’s lack of accountability and abuse of power, and local authorities’ attempts to pull the wool over our eyes make this play seem both truly contemporary and relevant.