Government Inspector

Performed November 24th to 27th 2010

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The Government Inspector - November 2010

Satire is successful finale to club’s 60th year

By DAVID COULTER

RIDING Mill folk are a lucky lot.

For they were treated to a production by Riding Mill Drama Club that would have graced any professional stage, as the club brought the curtain down on its 60th anniversary year with the hilarious satire The Government Inspector.

Under the shrewd direction of Chris Heckles, the tale of corruption and maltreatment of the lower classes, in the fictional Yorkshire town of Whiddle Bridge, a “cesspit of a town” in the years following the First World War, was given a sublime lightness of touch.

Corrupt administration, dirty streets and buildings (the local magistrates’ court is home to 300 geese!) and poor treatment of the working classes are commonplace, so the town’s top brass are understandably horrified to learn that a government inspector is due to visit.

When a well-to-do stranger arrives from London, the town’s leading lights, particularly the mayor, try to butter him up and bribe him to avoid a negative report.

However, the stranger is merely a junior civil servant stopping off at Whiddle Bridge on his way from London to Scotland, and he is only too happy to deprive them of their money and seduce their women.

It is only when the stranger hurriedly departs – after becoming engaged to the mayor’s daughter – that the town’s officials realise their mistake, and, right on cue, the real government inspector turns up.

Thanks to Heckles’ wit, ability and experience – she is a former drama teacher and professional director, having taught and worked with Lee Hall of Billy Elliott fame – the play was always going to be a hit.

But the cast also proved their worth and showed they could turn their respective hands to any theatric genre.

Undoubtedly the star of the show was Shaun Fenwick, whose delivery and comic timing in the lead role of roguish government worker, Cheetham, set the bar.

Every slanderous comment, every request for money and every advance on the virtue of the female population of Whiddle Bridge was executed with great stage presence and skill.

Other stand-out performances included that of Mike Smith who was utterly convincing (perhaps a little too much?) as the foul-mouthed, cretinous mayor, Sandy Gardner as the babbling magistrate, and Joe Tobin as the bumbling director of education.

And as for Ian Lockey, he could quite easily have been mistaken for Michael Barrymore, both in appearance and comic ability.

For the women, they were never overshadowed, although their characters were, shall we say, overtly excitable.

Hazel Osmond was side-splittingly funny as the mayor’s wife, as was Liesl Allcock who played their daughter – a delightful pairing, particularly during the scenes where they fought for Cheetham’s affection.

Anne Lawrence pulled off a perfectly pitched performance as the nosy postmistress, and nobody would ever want to get on the wrong side of Eileen Davidson if, in real life, she is anything like the stern matron she portrayed.

And no-one will soon forget the terrible twosome of Lady Hermione Dobbinson (Jean Buckley) and the Hon. Mrs Penelope Robinson (Frances Holmes), who kept the audience laughing with their troublesome gossip.

All in all, every member of Riding Mill Drama Club deserves a well-earned pat in the back – roll on the next 60 years.

Published by hexhamcourant.co.uk  Hexham Courant Link

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