Bringing The Government Inspector to the stage - The Southwick Players
“As the director, my goal is simple – make sure the show is in a fit state for when you, the audience, part with your hard-earned cash to watch it at the Barn, July 12-15. Rehearsing is easy. Deciding which show to do, that’s the tricky bit. After all, a good many people will be investing a good deal of time, effort and money in the production. The Southwick Players put on four shows a year so we cannot afford a dud.
“Firstly, as the director, I have to believe in the show. The Government Inspector is a farce, so, basic question, is it funny? One good guide is whether you laugh out loud when you read it. The answer – yes, again and again and again. My wife read it. I heard her guffawing. Can you cast it, especially as The Government Inspector has about two dozen larger-than-life characters? Not a problem at the Players. We are lucky to have a large pool of talented performers of all shapes, sizes and ages from Zarrina, just 17, and in only her second Players’ production to Ron, reverse the digits, who’s been in more shows at the Barn than you can shake a stick at.”
You also need an audience: “After all the weeks of planning, line-learning, set building, costume making and rehearsing you don’t really want to be playing to two men and a dog, especially when the dog leaves in the interval!” Also important is whether there is something in the play that gets the audience talking in the interval: “The Government Inspector is about corruption and greed in high places, and although it was written 200 years ago and is set in Russia, you might think the theme is rather relevant to our own here and now. I could list loads of examples of ‘snouts in the trough’ that have been come to light in the recent past!
“The plot is simple. The mayor and civic big-wigs of a hick town in the middle of nowhere – ‘if you rode a horse for three years you still wouldn’t come to a fold in the map’ – learn a government inspector from St Petersburg has arrived. Not only that, he is incognito. The news sends them into a frenzy in case this unknown stranger exposes their greed and corruption. What to do? Simple. Work out which one of the newcomers is the government inspector and bribe him. But all is not what it seems. As you would expect, there’s a twist in the tale.
“I have directed shows in a multitude of venues from school halls (Patcham High) to cliff-top theatres (the Minack) and 2,000-seater concert halls (the Dome) to tiny rooms above a pub (The Marlborough). Each presents its own challenges. The main challenge at the Barn is keeping an eye on my rock-cake intake. You must try one when you come to see the show. They are heaven on a plate.
“Directing a play is not just about moving the actors round the stage and telling them how wonderful they are or drinking vats of tea and scoffing rock-cakes. By the time we open, I will have been in more meetings than rehearsals. Meetings with the set designer, the costume designer, the lighting designer, meetings about publicity, meetings about the seating lay-out, meetings about meetings. For better or worse directors have the final say...”