The UN Inspector is a clever
update of the 1836 comedy that lampooned greedy government bureaucrats
who entertain a nondescript clerk they mistakenly believe has
arrived to examine corruption in high places.
Here the visitor is a pinstripe-suited London
real estate agent who, a failure even when prices are skyrocketing,
arrives in post-Soviet Russia
to make a killing snapping up property there.
Down to his last McDonald’s takeout, nonentity
Martin Remington Gammon is suddenly welcomed by the highest-ranking
Soviet officials based on a rumor that he is from the United Nations,
come to investigate improper use of loans from the International
Monetary Fund. Whisked off to be wined and dined in the president’s
palace, Gammon accepts the obsequious attention, food, drinks,
and bribes, acting out his fantasy that he is entitled to no less. In a brilliant performance by Michael Sheen,
he dazzles the fawning bureaucrats, imbibing more and more vodka,
building up to a climax as he impresses them with his accomplishments, including writing The Mill on the Floss,
hobnobbing with George and Laura in the Oval Office, and appearing
on television (“I Was on Big Brother with Harold Pinter”),then
ending with a backward flip into the air.
president, Kenneth Cranham is excellent
as he displays fawning bonhomie towards Gammon but maintains steely
determination to cover his devious use of the IMF loans, even
while his seductive wife (Geraldine James) plays up to Gammon’s
advances. Director Farr
maintains the cartoon-like action for most of the play, so that
the realism of the final moments are disconcerting and unsatisfying,
with a mob of protesters breaking loose and clawing at the windows,
and with the president cynically suggesting that the getaway helicopter
with his own daughter accompanying Gammon, could be shot down.