Date published: Fri 8 Dec 2017
Author: B. Gibson-Patteux
Category: Performing Arts
The Michaelmas Term culminated in three performances of the satirical play by the Russian dramatist and author, Nikolai Gogol. Published in the early 1800s and exploring contemporary themes of corruption, greed and stupidity, the play is a supreme comedy of errors. Behind Gogol’s highly-entertaining characters and hilariously-unfolding plot is a social commentary that holds a mirror up to society, be that 200 years ago, or today. Director of Drama, Mr Daniel Pirrie, purposely chose an abstract set and forwent elaborate period costume, in order to emphasise the disturbing ease with which the moral issues of the play can apply across the centuries.
The storyline shows how a case of simple mistaken identity can have great consequences. A small provincial town governor (Oscar Nicholson) and his top officials - all despicably corrupt - hear news of an ‘incognito’ government inspector, travelling from the mighty St Petersburg to investigate the administration. Extensive and ridiculous efforts to hide the rotten goings-on in the town ensue. The coincidental arrival of an insignificant, yet unscrupulous and self-important government clerk (Ben Goldby), sets the cogs of misunderstanding and comedy in motion.
The disparate characters were all well interpreted: the commitment and immersion was compelling. From Macauley Keeper’s waspish and devious governor’s wife, a character thankfully confined to fiction, to Ben’s foppish clerk, who escalates his fantastical lies brilliantly before the aghast and rapt townspeople.
Whitgift’s champions of drama were out in full force: Oscar, Ben, Macauley, Sam Webber (the Clerk’s servant), Edouard Nelson (Schools Superintendent), Jude Willoughby (Judge), Charles Barber (Postmaster), Daniel Horsley (Charity Commissioner), Harry Seager and George Jaques (Landowners) in particular, have delighted audiences in numerous school productions over the years. With many of the cast in their final year at Whitgift, having mastered the art of comedy, they will turn their talents to the Sixth Form play, in March - the courtroom drama A Few Good Men - for a last curtain call.