The Brockley Jack have written to announce a special £5 offer for Tuesday 8 July, see here.
That has prompted me to share my views on the performance I saw. The Brockley Jack are lovely people and the toilets there are quite exceptional, but they do annoy me by putting on plays that they don’t understand (and I do).
This was all far too normal–it might have been a realistic account of a bachelor civil servant trying to find himself a wife, when the whole point of Gogol is that it’s meant to be grotesque, more specifically a diseased self trying to avoid collapse in encountering the outside world and throwing off endless sparkling fantasies in the process. The picture on the FB page with the offer on shows that somebody may have understood something of this, but it certainly didn’t appear in the production. There for instance we started off with Podkolyosin reading in the paper the plot of Gogol’s story The Nose, which at least gave me a surprise but destroyed the contrast between his paranoid fantasies that everyone would know he was looking for a wife and the servant Stepan’s no-nonsense resentful gruffness. Or the matchmaker Fyokla was here played as a kind of health visitor, complete with capacious handbag, when something overdressed and overdone in the manner of a pantomime dame is required. Or then Podkolyosin himself was far too young, good-looking, and, well, marriageable while the intended bride Agaf’ya was a kind of Jane Austen heroine (and dressed appropriately), quite naturally agitated at having to choose a husband, when she should be both stupid and a threat–Gogol was really, really frightened of women…
The lovely extended joke about them speaking French on Sicily–because everything outside the self is uniformly and undifferentiatedly a threat to the self–went begging because we never got a sample of the French:
..try and say to him ‘Give me some bread, brother’,–he won’t understand, really he won’t understand; but say in French ‘Dateci del pane’ or ‘portate vino!’–he’ll understand,…
You don’t want to make these things too sensible–Sicily was after all ruled by the French for long enough and they might speak French there.
See here for what I know about other Russian plays in London.