"The Government Inspector", produced in March by Convergence, was a personal triumph for Mr. K. C. Waller, whose brilliantly fluent translation of Gogol's comedy never sounded like a translation, and whose meticulous production inspired a dedication rarely seen in school drama.
The play entertained the audience continually and yet underlined the serious theological and moral ideas of the author. Especially was this so in the strikingly stylised ending. We had laughed, moderately as the Producer wished, all through the play; but we went home chastened by the sudden attack on us all in the closing moments, by the vision we were given of Man as living in a smug, vulgar, corrupt society, unaware of his own failings.
It was certainly theatrical, that ending, in the best sense of the word. First, there was the long, vituperative speech from the Mayor and the consequent hurried incriminations and accusations of blame. Then the trumpets off-stage gradually drowned the chatter, and using the double doors as one felt they were meant to be used, Ray Parnell swept grandly in to announce the coming of the real Inspector. Clad in a vivid costume of red and pure white that contrasted with the browns and blacks of the other characters, he walked slowly to the front, and in a deep resonant voice made his announcement: we began to feel that Judgement Day was upon us. In flickering lights, the cast remained immobile, pinned like specimens for the Final Dissection.
The Cast were enthusiastically eager to support the Producer, who had welded them into a happy and concerted team by his own careful preparations and tactful suggestions. They were ably led by the one 'professional' among them, whose vast stage experience was a great help to the ones trying out their skills for the first time. John Graham, as the smug, proud, expansive Mayor, unsure of his own origins and eager to capitalise on a chance of corruption, was as usual first class. His vacuous stare, winning con-man's smile and Northern accent all fitted the part beautifully, and made the play seem politically topical as well as universally true.
Some idea of the dedication that inspired the others can be seen in the article that follows; but all did their best with whatever equipment they had. Marek Pieczora had a most difficult task, in trying to present someone of his own age. He was particularly effective when indulging in his flights of fancy and when engaged in courtship in the Mayor's own household.. In this, he was admirably assisted by Heather Ware as the daughter, with marvellously expressive eyes, and Lynn Rosenberg as the Mother, deliciously simpering or imperious as occasions demanded. Martin Kirke was typical of many in the cast in the way he developed during rehearsal: not a born actor, and still a trifle inarticulate at times, he conveyed a credible personality, a veritable anthropoid ape of a man-servant.
As the 'twins', Martin Samuels and Paul Diner were really funny; they enlivened the play on their every appearance, bobbing like two puppets in tune, each mouthing the other's words and constantly interrupting each other. Their timing was a delight. Anthony Samuels was an amusing Postmaster: his 'broody coot' remains long in the memory, as well as his beaky nose and bird-like sparkling eyes. Others who attracted notice were Geoffrey Plow, in one of his speciality turns as an old man, Sarah Bamford, who made a most impressive sweeping entrance as his wife, Nigel Glover, and a Germanic Michael Dibben.
The Council members were completed by a booming Dennis Harvey, a cringing Kevin Maton and a quiet Michael Cordy. What was so impressive about their playing, though, was their response to each other: they really reacted as a team.
Behind them was another team, equally dedicated to ensure a professional production. Not the least remarkable feature of the stage staff and their colleagues was the fact that the Stage Managers and the Lighting Director were all young ladies from the Girls' School, two of them helping again with "Maria Marten". It is a sad result of Re-organisation that we can no longer call upon help from Lowlands Road in this way. Our warmest thanks go to these capable technicians, Glenys Davies, Marion Perkins and Susan Crook.
Al this harmony and co-operation was due largely to the tremendous determination of Mr. Waller. From the inaugural social to the final curtain, his hand was in evidence. He translated the play himself, fixed rehearsals at a time when producers are usually beginning to choose the play, persuaded people to design costumes and a suitable set, and insisted on properties of remarkable accuracy, down to the very Russian samovar and the Ikon that now adorns the Common Room.
The whole venture was educational in the widest sense: boys and girls were allowed to develop their own characterisations, so sample the pleasures of working in a team, and to learn the delights of creative enjoyment.
JSG (Jim Golland)
Reprinted from The Gaytonian, 1974.
Views of the Cast - by Dennis Harvey and Geoffrey Plow
The Government Inspector can be acclaimed as another success for convergence, yet any mere dramatic success must be linked to the satisfaction given to aspiring young actors, such as ourselves, in participating in such an enjoyable and successful production. When younger and not active members of Convergence, we had little conception of the vast extent of time devoted by various people to preparing dramatic productions. Only by participating in a production such as this can the interdependence between actors, stage staff and front-of-house be fully appreciated. The actors themselves were given freedom to express their own ideas in formulating the character-studies, and were thus able to integrate particular character-traits in playing their parts. Further to this, the cast were able to assist Mr. Waller in giving the translation as natural and idiomatic an air as possible; by this means, in our view, the cast were not detached from the play, but had the feeling that the play was a true fruition of their own efforts.
Another aspect of the play was the fact that we adopted a number of Russian habits to add authenticity: for instance, we were told that there is a particular Russian was of crossing oneself before an icon; we had a genuine samovar; and we got used to the rather unusual Russian practice of applauding a good audience. All these are, individually, small points; but collectively thy helped to give detail and realism, which was, I felt, at least as important as the acting.