Now almost 200 years old, Gogol's delicious satire springs from the corrupt politics of 1830s Russia.

This new adaptation, penned and directed by Patrick Myles embraces the impeccable comic and dramatic structure of the original, while loading it with references to corruption, cronyism, hypocrisy, government contracts, a pig’s head, lobbying and all the other indispensable components of politics through the ages. 

Who can Patrick possibly be referring to, and just what is a Bullingdon handshake?

Ham & High: Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Daniel Millar in The Government InspectorKiell Smith-Bynoe and Daniel Millar in The Government Inspector (Image: Oliver King)

Set in a small town up in the North, there are whispers that a government inspector is in town. Governor Swashprattle (brought to sleazy, grasping life by the terrific Dan Skinner) and his venal band of councillors realise that their lucrative world of back handers and dodgy contracts could come crashing down.

The Inspector must be fixed.

Percy Fopdoodle, a skint sponger, fantasist and chancer has arrived at the inn with his savvy valet Fudgel. In a classic comic pairing, Kiell Smith-Bynoe (familiar from TVs Ghosts and Dreamland) and Daniel Millar squeeze every drop of comic genius out of the set up.

Fopdoodle is accepted as the Inspector and invited to stay at the Governor’s villa. Martha Howe-Douglas (another Ghosts star) is excellent as the Guv’s insecure, social climbing Brummie wife (her laboured pronunciation of Counts will make you blush).

The work is awash with references to social standing – the most stupid and corrupt are highest, while those at the bottom, Fudgel and maid Marigold, are the only ones who have a grasp of reality.

There were technical problems at the start of the evening and the cast perhaps overresponded by rushing their lines.

The show combines good old fashioned mistaken identity, dollops of knockabout farce, and is threaded with brilliant dialogue: “Needs must when fate defecates in your porridge”.

At the end of the play, when Fopdoodle has fled and the council realise they have been had, Swashprattle, breaches the fourth wall, addresses the audience: “I don’t know what you lot are laughing at," he says. "You’re laughing at yourselves!”

The Government Inspector runs at Marylebone Theatre until 15th June.