We’re Banking On It!

We’re Banking On It!
Adapted from The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol. Presented by MUST and Bloomshed. Directed by James Jackson. fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. 12-16 May 2024.

Monash University Student Theatre (MUST) in collaboration with Bloomshed have produced a very fine and facetious adaptation of Gogol’s iconic text. Placing the themes and ideas in an Australian context is already a strong political statement and suggests an absurd decline in the contemporary political and economic landscape. The reference to the scandalous behaviour of big supermarket giants and likening their actions to Gogol’s very sardonic and jaded vision of Russian bureaucracy is ingenious.

The very stylised performance accentuates the absurd scenarios that arise from the anticipated arrival of an inspector at a giant monopolised supermarket company. The way in which this ruffles the feathers of a system which is deeply embedded with greed, corruption, stupidity is treated with mockery and tongue in cheek humour. This is made abundantly clear via the well-executed stylised performance, the garish set and lighting, and the ludicrous legal and social responses to the idea that the intricate and convoluted schemes of dishonesty are about to be exposed. The staging and costume design was particularly inventive creating very different spaces and contexts to capture the variety of moods of the story and events. The choreography was especially lively and gave the show a strong movement dynamic.

It is clear that the generation of university students who have participated in creating this play are plagued by concerns about the kind of nation and economy they are inheriting. However, the tone of the play is not fatalistic, and the playful treatment of the material helps to reiterate the important points being made. The production presents as a very polished piece of work and the entire ensemble all provided some very strong performances. Some stand out performers include John Burgess as Micheal “Mike” Bags and Kieran O’Baoill as Khelestakov. They displayed enormous kinetic energy that accentuated the fantastic irony and satire that characterises this show. 

This is a production with a clear vision and a very cohesive approach to its directorial style. This allows the audience to focus entirely on the very insightful social and political commentary infused in this delightful show.

Patricia Di Risio 

Photographer: Elena Ruefenacht

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