The Government Inspector

'Sexual innuendo and risqué ribaldry stalk the stage like a pair of inappropriately greased badgers'

Another OMAC season (the last?), another Bruiser show. As reassuring and comfy as a pair of old slippers, Bruiser ease back into the business of making compellingly frantic, funny and above all accessible theatre.

Bruiser regulars will know the drill by now: take a classic text, find a reductive adaptation with a contemporary sheen, ramp up the farce and the physicality, sit back and watch the box office catch fire. Lather, rinse and repeat every six months and you have the recipe for enduring success – something that eludes some of the more esteemed companies practicing their noble art on these shores.

This time around the text in question is Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector and what with politicians recently turning out to be incompetent and corrupt and all (who'd have guessed it?), it could be the closest Bruiser have come to satire in their history. Having previously tackled writers as diverse as Potter and Voltaire, the Bruiser ethos subsumes its subject once again to produce another clear-cut case for theatre as unadulterated entertainment.

The farcical quality of Gogol’s stinging attack on the Csarist bureaucracy that strangled 19th century Russian society was always suggested, but with Bill Scott’s romping adaptation it assumes proportions that would make Brian Rix blush.

The setting is familiar enough; the corrupt public servants of a regional town get wind that a government inspector is being sent incognito to audit and assess the efficacy of public services. The corrupt, inefficient and degenerate officials mistake a young stranger (in reality a gambling chancer) for the government inspector, and much misunderstanding and comedy ensues.

The cast, as you expect with Bruiser, deliver energetic and effusive performances with special mention going to Bruiser stalwarts Michael Condron and Julie Maxwell. Condron in particular holds the attention with a weasely opportunistic turn as the stranger who preys on the stupidity and selfishness of the town officials. Part cut-price Del-boy, part sleaze-merchant Ben Dover (I honestly only know about him because he was featured on a BBC4 documentary recently), he plays the role of grasping mountebank with an oily charm.

Sexual innuendo and risqué ribaldry stalk the stage like a pair of inappropriately greased badgers, as ‘gigantic balls’ are for some reason mistakenly believed to refer to a pair of testicles and shuffling a pack of cards bears an uncanny resemblance to the act of masturbation. It is quite a feat that Bruiser have developed a considerable schools’ following, given their penchant for close-to the-bone (ooh-er) humour.

There’s little purpose in the Bruiser universe for depth – things happen because if they didn’t we wouldn’t get to the next physical gag or double-entendre. To criticise Bruiser for this is akin to getting annoyed with the Stones for still touring – it’s just what the company knows and does best.

To use marketing speak, Bruiser is a brand to be trusted. If you also consider their much-lauded summer schools programme, they’re probably responsible for exposing more young people to the possibilities of theatre than any other company in Northern Ireland. While nobody pretends it’s anything other than high-precision romp, what better way to get the callow, the curious and the quaking to take that first step?

So then, another raucous, fun Bruiser show. Roll on their raucously fun reduction of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui in six month’s time.

Joe Nawaz