Sadler’s Wells, London
March 3, 2020
What a magnificent evening! The deep understanding of theatre that Pite and Young have in combination with the mastery of technique of Kidd Pivot company members produces in Revisor a multi-layered, complex work that genuinely challenges assumptions, raises questions, makes one examine one’s conscience – and is a good laugh in many places too. It is a must-see.
The poet spreads the gossip to the playwright, the playwright tells the world. A century later, another playwright turns the gossip into a tale of broken secrets and impending war. Almost another century on, another playwright and a choreographer turn it into an examination of the past century and the possibilities of the future.
The gossip was that an inspector was coming to town, forcing everyone to sweep as much under the carpet as possible and then try to pull the wool over the eyes of the stranger. Chaos ensues, each citizen calling over themselves to hide their own peccadilloes and expose their neighbours. Only when the stranger is packed off with great ceremony with his pockets bulging do they realise that he was not the real inspector. The cat is out of the bag and they are all exposed.
The original playwright is of course Gogol and this is The Government Inspector; but not as we know it, Jim. All the farcical elements of that work are there; larger than life characters, tangles bureaucracy, hierarchies, egos, misunderstandings, slapstick but this version goes much further.
There is a hint of Lieutenant Kije and a nod to the 1905 revolution as the ‘inspector’ becomes the ‘revisor’, pretending at first that he is there just to change a comma in a document (the 1905 revolution was sparked by compositors, paid by the letter, demanding that they be paid for punctuation as well).
As with Pite and Young’s previous Betroffeheit, there is an anthropomorphic light that pulses, glows and flashes in response to the spoken word; and here the spoken word is given equal weighting with movement. The word becomes physical in the hands of this ridiculously talented cast, the dancers partnering with actors who actually recorded the voice-over two years before the work was choreographed. Sometimes they lip-synch, sometimes fingers jab in the air to underline verbal punctuation, sometimes words seem to make characters wobble like jelly or plunge over into a roll to land legs akimbo. The Ministry of Silly Walks has nothing on this. Arguments become visible as bodies entwine in fluid enmeshment, seemingly becoming a tangled series of knots, only for one end to be pulled and the whole becomes separate again.
Whilst this is very much an ensemble piece, Allesandro Juliani as Postmaster Wieland stood out even amongst the extraordinary cast. Her ridiculously fluid body and lightening responses created a character that almost transcended the piece in its charisma.
There is plenty in The Government Inspector to echo our age as much as Gogol’s but Revisor goes even further. If The Government Inspector is the urtext, Pite and Young create an uber text, the narration providing a running commentary on the choreographic process as we see it unfold. Hinted at in the beginning and the dropped as the farce unfolds, it comes back with a vengeance at the end and obliges the audience to assess what they have seen in a very Brechtian manner.
Tom Visser’s lighting design contributes to this by hinting at a vast opaque window or perhaps even one frosted with rime, the view over the whole world that the piece conjures. Flashing across it, we see bolts of lightning that accompany thoughts, then realise that they are the electricity that fires neurons and axons, the very thought processes that engender movement and speech.
Revisor will stay in the memory for a very long time.