Mayor Gladhand and his family (Renée Killough, Aidan Dunsmuir, SJ Valiquette) swap stories about the sophisticated influential man they believe to be the inspector, in The Inspector, Linda Hardy’s West Coast adaptation of Nikolay Gogol’s political satire running at the Phoenix Theatre at UVic until March 18.

The Phoenix Knows How to Poke Fun

Monday Magazine's Theatre Critic Sheila Martindale reviews The Inspector

Tent City; the sewage saga; the Senator scandal; bridge replacement late and over-budget; the proliferation of pot shops – does any of this sound familiar? Welcome to Linda Hardy’s clever adaptation of Gogol’s nineteenth century play The Inspector.

We instantly recognize Victoria by the lamp standards and flower baskets, with a few homeless people sleeping on the stage. When the action gets going it is fast and loud. The stage is busy as the nineteen cast members crowd it with their protest signs, their exaggerated clothing and their bicycles. No pauses so that the audience may take in all the humorous reference – this is a high-octane performance which leaves us a little breathless.

There is a rumour that a government inspector will be arriving incognito and will be making a report on our provincial capital. The alert is on! This person must be kept happy at all costs. Enter Sidney Riley Best, a politician’s son sent west for a while to avoid embarrassing his father in Ottawa, and staying at the “Impress Hotel” with his chaperone. Naturally, everyone suspects he is the inspector, and the fun really begins.

Nicholas Guerreiro is outstanding as this charming layabout, who unwittingly bamboozles everyone, while Jack Hayes does a very competent job of trying to keep him under control and under-budget. Aidan Dunsmuir portrays the Mayor as even-minded and even-handed until temptation is really put in his way! Acting police chief (one may ask what happened to the real Chief!) Stella is undertaken with zest by Lucy Sharples. She and Grace Le (as Daisy) are two of the women in the cast who have really mastered the art of voice projection. Everyone on stage plays excellent parts, all in charge of their interesting and well-defined characters.

A note of praise for the stage management: the sets are changed with precision, all in time with catchy music, and miraculously without anyone tripping over or bumping into anyone else.

The use of face masks is a cunning device, used effectively here. A word must be said about Mr. & Mrs. Floatie – yes, they are turds – who do a very cute little number with toilet plungers. All the actors play multiple parts, another of the wonders of this well-directed play. Playwright Linda Hardy directs, along with Jeffrey Renn, for a very seamless and enjoyable two hours and forty minutes. Yes, it is a long play, and the Phoenix might give some thought in the future to brevity as an art form unto itself.

The Inspector runs until March 18. For tickets call 250-721-8000.

 

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