A large crowd of spectators including eager students, and teachers gathered around at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Creative Arts Department, waiting to witness how their fellow students would put all the learned theories into action.
Performing a theater act of one of Nikolai Gogol’s most beloved play, ‘The Government Inspector’ by the first year students taking a degree in theatre arts, film and television at the UDSM; who had no prior practice of acting, they managed to put together an outstanding show.
From the beginning to the end of the performance, the actors were able to engage people into responding and cheering. Their beautiful and exotic performance clearly portrayed the message.
The performance had smooth scene changes, a clear focus, and a cohesiveness that was impressive.
They narrated perfectly and the students were able to depict and expose all the injustices occurring with some comic sense into it, which left the entire audience in laughter and satisfaction.
The overall plot of the play centered on mistaken identity set in a rural town in Russia. The officials happen upon a dapper fool arriving in town and mistake him for the inspector from the government.
They entice, and pamper him in an attempt to distract him from the evils of the administration.
The officials succeed, and the dapper fool leaves town. Just then the real inspector appears, much to the chagrin of the officials.
This play is a wellknown farce. In it, Gogol shows his distaste for the overall politics in Russia at the time.
Theatre arts teacher at UDSM Creative Arts College, Novetha Kigombe said that the students are being taught the foundation and basics in acting.
They start by learning the theory parts of it and once they are done they put what they learnt into action.
“You cannot point out that a person is good at acting without seeing them in action, how they can immerse themselves in the character, how they take command of the theater space and are heard on the theatre,” Kigombe said.
Among the things that are observed is how they become one with the character and if their voice and body gestures portray the message and attract the audience, she explained.
“The students did an excellent job, they have been able to really become the character and portray the message needed, especially considering that they are just fresh from A levels and have never had any prior training of the field,” she commended.
Preparing for a role is the process of getting into your character’s head, embodying them the best you can.
Where an actor refuses to break character on set; in between takes, they stay in the role, trying to fully inhabit the character so that they are always perfect when playing the role, she said.
“And that is what my students did.” The play was written in 1836 and is acted today by our youth after almost two millenniums, it’s a long history that still carries its importance, she commented.
“They chose (students), this play because currently Tanzania is fighting against a lot of things including corruption, misuse of government property, and misconduct of the civil servants; which is in line with what our current government is doing now,” she noted.
She further advised parents to stop being choosers of their kids’ talents, instead become supporters of what their children want to study.
“Every child has their own talent, so give them an opportunity to pursue what they want to study, a parent is to give them guidance, advice and support on how to achieve it. But if you deny your child, he or she may do it in hiding while still studying what you chose for him or her,” she asserted.
Adding that in the end of the day the child may end up failing both. The Director of Russia Tanzania Cultural Center (RTCC), Maria Pateev said that the famous play was written in Russia in 1836. Gogol became popular by writing novels full of satire and irony.
“Even though the play was written a long time ago but it is still of present context and people still get entertained and learn something from the play,” she commented.
The play has been translated into several languages including Swahili ‘Mkaguzi wa Serikali’ and was edited in the language by the coordinator at RTCC Rifat Pateev in 1999.
Gogol had his heart set on an illustrious career in literature. Unfortunately, he met with failure after failure in his early adulthood.
For him literature was more than just entertainment. Many of his works fall under the realm of satire, which is using criticism, irony and dark humor to point out the inconsistencies or injustices in society.
Gogol’s personal goal was to use literature, particularly laughter, to reveal abuses in the real world, hoping to trigger a more righteous way to live.
His plays, in particular, had a major influence in Russian literature. The Government Inspector is his first play and perhaps Gogol’s finest work.
A quote from Gogol himself outlining his goal in writing this masterpiece ‘’I resolved to gather into one heap everything that was bad in Russia…all the injustices being perpetrated… and tried to hold them all up to ridicule… Through the laughter, which I had never before vented with such force, the reader could feel my deep sorrow.’’
The Government Inspector, which satirizes a corrupt society was regarded by Nabokov as the greatest play in the Russian language and is still widely studied in schools and universities. Gogol’s other plays include Marriage and The Gamblers.