By Harry Mottram: When the Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol decided to write a play he was frightened that the Russian secret police would pay him a visit and the script would be heavily censored. In 1835 he asked the Russian writer Pushkin for advice on writing a drama and Pushkin gave him the idea of mistaken identity as he had once been mistaken for a Government Inspector. This germ of an idea was enough and by the following year Gogol had completed writing The Government Inspector.

He shouldn’t have worried as the emperor of Russia Tsar Nicholas I saw the script and gave it his approval as he considered it a criticism of corrupt officials rather than of the entire Russian state. The play was first staged at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, on 19 April 1836 – in front of the Tsar and the rest is history as the audience loved it and it has been staged regularly ever since around the world. And now in Axbridge, as David Parkin is set to stage the comedy in the town hall from 22-25 November, 2023 – so mark your diaries as it is a play that will have you laughing from start to finish.

Axbridge Community Theatre are behind the production giving the play their usual professional edge. Found after the 2000 Pageant ACT have staged plays twice a year (covid excepted) ranging from Shakespeare to JB Priestley and from Pinter to Noel Coward. Artistic director John Bailey has directed most productions but Diane Lukins, David Parkin, Phil Saunders and others have also directed to great acclaim.

I’ve seen the play twice – both productions being staged in Bath. My reviews will give you some idea of the play: and The first was a drama student production at The Mission Theatre, and the second was a Playing Up production at The Rondo Theatre (pictured).

The play is about the town’s corrupt officials led by the Mayor who mistake a penniless foppish minor clerk staying in the town for a highly important official. They fall over themselves to impress him leading to a classic farce based on mistaken identity. How it turns out – you’ll have to wait for the final scene.

Axbridge News is edited by Harry Mottram and is published for the interest of himself and fellow residents

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