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Theatre Critics in the Limelight at Loft Theatre

Theatre critics Matthew Salisbury (left) and Nick Le Mesurier join forces to bring a classic to the stage. Photo courtesy of the Loft Theatre.

Two Warwickshire theatre critics have swapped the comfort of a seat in the darkened auditorium to be centre stage in a new production coming up in June.

Matthew Salisbury, who reviews theatre and music for the Observer, has joined forces with fellow-critic and writer Nick Le Mesurier, to bring a modern version of Russian classic The Government Inspector to the Loft Theatre.

Nick, who is a member of the Bear Pit theatre group in Stratford, has written a brand-new adaptation of the Gogol classic, which will see Matthew making his directorial debut at the Loft as well as taking part in the action.

The play charts the efforts of a bunch of corrupt officials as they try to save their skins in the face of a government inspection. Bribery, finger-pointing and blame-shifting abound before the end is reached.

Scriptwriter Nick said: “Gogol’s play is a classic. It’s as relevant today as it was when it was written. The characters are larger than life and it’s still extremely funny.”

The irony of letting someone else pick up their usual role of reviewer is not lost on the pair.

“It’s quite scary putting something you’ve written out there for people to see and have an opinion on. It feels quite personal in a way,” Nick said.

“I’m a great believer in the value of local theatre - we’re very fortunate to have so many good theatres in this area. Being a reviewer is part of the process of supporting local theatre - I like to try to persuade people why they should come along to see something.”

One of Nick’s tasks in adapting the play has been to cut down the near-30 characters in the original to a much more streamlined company of ten. 

Putting that company through its paces and bringing the script to life is Matthew’s task. It’s a different role from being in the cast of a production and has its own challenges.

Coming in June to The Loft.

Matthew said: “Although the story has obvious modern echoes, we’re still setting the action back in the 1830s. Directing is a wonderful privilege, but it’s packed with challenges. Just thinking about how it will work has already bewildered me and we’ve hardly started rehearsals yet. I’m just glad the script is so funny.”

“I’ve known Nick for a while and always liked the things he’s written. When I first read his version of The Government Inspector, I jumped at the chance to bring it to the stage.”

And when it comes to looking out on the opening night and seeing someone else poised with a notebook in the reviewer’s seat, neither Nick nor Matthew is too frightened.

Matthew said: “I’ve been reviewing plays and shows for years so it’s a bit odd to think of someone coming along to pass judgement on something I’ve done. I only hope it’s not someone with a few scores to settle!”  

Free ticket offer for 16-25 year olds, book online or in person at Loft Theatre Box Office. Proof of age is required. The Government Inspector is at the Loft Theatre in Leamington from Wednesday 5 June to Saturday 15 June. Visit for booking details on all Loft shows.


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