A Guide to Modern Playwrights, Plays, and Productions
 
 
 
 
The UN Inspector

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.

 As the 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.