During the autumn term a 30-strong company of students from Years 11 to 13 each put in a huge amount of time and effort into rehearsals for the Senior Play, which this year was Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector.

We better distinguish ourselves, gentlemen, because this is a test! - Photo by Isaac Shenoy (Year 13)
I'm burning with love! - Photo by Isaac Shenoy (Year 13)

Written in 1836, The Government Inspector is a biting moral satire about a group of inept and corrupt councillors whiling away their days in the wintry Russian provinces. Underlying the hilarious farce and caricature in the play is an examination of power and corruption among elected officials - a key reason why Gogol’s masterpiece is still being performed and adapted two centuries after it was written. It probably isn’t too much of a leap to suggest that the inane interactions between the play’s characters seem to mirror the shambolic nature of contemporary UK politics. In the first act, the town’s mayor realises with horror that an inspector from St Petersburg has visited their town. Immediately coordinating a clean-up of her council’s corruption, the mayor yearns to receive a friendly report and hold onto her job. This task is easier said than done and the hapless officials hurtle towards a classic case of mistaken identity, pursuing the wrong person and wasting money, time and effort. By sweet-talking and bribing Khlestakov, a posh nobody staying at the local inn, they engage in even more blatant corruption, and make serious fools of themselves in the process. The dramatic realisation that the government inspector is not in fact a government inspector stuns all of the councillors, and then ruins their lives.

The play was student-led; directed by myself and Adam Bosher and co-produced by Sanaya Patel - each of us in Year 13. I’m very happy to report that the cast really did excel themselves and that each performance of our zany, dark and pretty inexcusably profane play were met by lots of laughs and enthusiastic audiences. At times, well actually most of the time, it felt like we might not get there, but we did, and it was an absolute pleasure to work alongside such a friendly and skilled company of actors and techies, and to have the support of all my teachers throughout.

Cast member Chris Murrin had the following to say:

Proud to serve this town! - Photo by Isaac Shenoy (Year 13)

I’ve long been involved in DCGS productions but The Government Inspector has been, by far, the most enjoyable. I relished the opportunity to portray Lyapkin-Tyapkin, the corrupt judge, who launches a coup in the council to overthrow the all-controlling Mayor. Drawing inspiration from the more eccentric troublemakers in contemporary politics (not to name any names), I worked to portray Lyapkin’s blasé attitude and loose interpretation of justice, and aimed to create a caricature in this out-of-touch, self-serving politician. The rest of the cast and the crew were brilliant and I loved acting alongside so many talented and funny characters (both on and off-stage!) What has made this production especially enjoyable has been the student-led approach. It’s fair to say that Finlay ran a tight ship, ensuring every scene was not only hilarious but also slick. Simultaneously Adam worked meticulously to bring out each character’s quirks and ensure every punchline landed. Sanaya was an incredible cheerleader, keeping the cast, and Finlay’s, spirits high no matter how behind schedule we were! I think something the whole cast has enjoyed is the chance to bond and make friendships with people in both Year 12 and Year 13. Being my last DCGS production, this has been a bittersweet time for me, but I firmly believe this show has served as a brilliant farewell to my time at DCGS - of which Drama has been central.

Alex Burn in Year 11 was our stage manager:

It’s fair to say that being in the crew can be stressful at times, especially when moving heavy tables and props on stage, alongside the actors and midway through performances - but it is also very rewarding. Stage crew have to rehearse their movements in as much detail as the cast, meaning that seeing all your hard work pay off on performance nights is a huge relief. Yes, there are always a few things that go wrong on the night but I'm happy to say that overall we managed to run backstage, with its props, scene changes and live video screens, very efficiently. The role of stage manager was a first for me, and I really enjoyed the challenge, although to begin with it did feel weird telling my friends what to do… The best part of being involved in a DCGS production is meeting new people and also the feeling of achievement when a performance goes really well. Clearing up ridiculous amounts of fake snow at the end was less enjoyable, but the cast helped us out with the tidying up on the last night - we only had to put a few props away and do some hoovering!

School titular Khlopov, Khlopov titular school superintendent tit school Khlopov... Schools! - Photo by Isaac Shenoy (Year 13)
Steam and tweezers, steam and tweezers! - Photo by Isaac Shenoy (Year 13)
No cards here - Photo by Isaac Shenoy (Year 13)
This cow... it's been dug up, exhumed! - Photo by Isaac Shenoy (Year 13)

With the performances complete, all that was left to do was to say our thank yous and to tidy up… a task made somewhat more difficult by three days of snow locking the school down! To conclude, the production would simply not exist without the diligence and effort of each company member involved. For some it was a few strokes of a paintbrush, for others a prolonged commitment across many months, but without the labour of each student, the production would not have been the affair it was. Likewise, without the support of staff, namely Mr Flower and Mr Millar, I would not have had the chance let alone the guidance in putting on this show. I’m indebted to our whole company and hope that next year’s play is as enjoyable and fulfilling to direct and watch each night as The Government Inspector was, even if I won’t be around to take part in it..!