Linda Hardy conjures moments of poop in the bay and a battle of commerce versus bicycle lanes, among the issues plucked from local headlines, in her adaptation of Nikolay Gogol’s The Government Inspector.
Aspects of The Inspector may appear eerily similar to Greater Victoria but “we’re calling it Paradise,” says Hardy, the writer and director. “We shift between the garden, the street, the breakwater and the Impress hotel.”
A pair of iconic lamp standards on loan from the City of Victoria and a Mr. and Mrs. Floatie in a vaudeville routine add to the local feel. She wanted something fantastic to cap Phoenix Theatre’s 50th anniversary season. The University of Victoria theatre professor’s The Inspector, runs at Phoenix Theatre from March 9 to 18.
“I always wanted to do The Inspector,” Hardy said. “It’s a little political satire the kids can relate to that’s right in their backyard.”
While leaving the plot of the original 1836 play intact she weaves familiar problems into Gogol’s tale about a town whose officials hear a government inspector is coming – incognito. When they mistake a cunning ex-civil servant for the inspector, the schemes turn against them. Greed, corruption, and hypocrisy escalate and the farce spins out of control.
“I started doing the adaptation last April,” she said. With an early draft complete by August, audiences will likely recognize reflections on community concerns of last summer.
The performance begins with police rousting homeless kids and sending them off for breakfast at the break of dawn then shifts to a woman angered for getting a ticket for parking in front of her own home (an experience pulled from her circle of friends) and after finding no mercy at city hall gets “Mad as Hell” and joins a protest group.
“The plot is actually fairly close to Gogol,” Hardy said. “I just try to find these wonderful parallels.”
News media offered gems on a regular basis, while other bits are experiences pulled from friends. For example, instead of chickens in the courthouse, an unleashed dog is positioned as a threat to topple people and in Hardy’s Paradise the issue of marijuana legalization replaces liquor control concerns.
Her writing started on the heels of a fourth-year project last fall where Hardy hammered home the opinion: “The artist’s job has always been the provocateur who asks the really hard questions.”
While the characters don’t directly reflect individuals in today’s society, “they have qualities of people we recognize.”
The set, designed by fourth-year student Delaney Tesch, recalls iconic Victoria landscapes, including streetscapes with flower-basketed lamp posts, ivy-walled buildings, upscale hotels, and bamboo-fenced gardens. Costumes, designed by students Barbara Clerihue and Hana Ruzesky-Basford, draw Fort and Douglas into the Roger Bishop Theatre.
Lighting by MFA design student Eryn Griffith takes the audience from parks to hotel rooms and backyard parties, complemented by city soundscapes and original music by fourth-year student Christopher Green. Projections by third-year student Marites Frazer add to the set and lighting designs. Stage management is by fourth-year student Rebecca Marchand.
“We have a fabulous creative team,” Hardy said. “We’ve just been so gifted.”
The Inspector runs at Phoenix Theatre through March 18. Visit finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/phoenix/tickets/ or call the Phoenix box office at 250-721-8000 for ticket information.
Did you know?
n UVic instructor since 1975, Linda Hardy has worked nationally and internationally as a master teacher of acting and voice, training professional actors and singers for stage and film. Her therapeutic skills in voice work and breath control in particular are highly sought after, resulting in many workshops in Thailand and India, where she has regularly assisted performers with vocal difficulties. In India, she also works with Tibetan monks and ritual masters, whose voices are strained from long hours of ceremonial chant.
For the Phoenix Theatre, Hardy has directed many shows and supervised many graduate directing students.