Stampede, The Nose

Review in Issue 12-1 | Spring 2000

Nikolai Gogol’s ‘The Nose’ – a surreal and ridiculous story in which a pompous minor government official accidentally misplaces his nose – is ambitious source material for adaptation. Superficially it provides rich comic pickings (no pun intended). Like Gogol’s better known ‘The Government Inspector’, ‘The Nose’ is a satire on provincial hierarchy and folly in mid-nineteenth-century Russia. The absurd social stereotypes that occupy Gogol’s world are a gift to dramatise. Stampede’s cast of four bring them to the stage as glorious grotesques in half-masks, providing each of them with ludicrously exaggerated proboscises. All of them except Kovalyov that is, the local councillor, who wakes up one morning to find himself inexplicably without a nose.

From the fancy restaurants and salons of St Petersburg, to the newspaper offices and police station, the humiliated and panic-stricken Kovalyov scours the city in search of his errant nose. There are rumours that the nose is masquerading as a high-ranking official. Mrs Belittle, the hideous social-climber who is desperate to seal a nuptial contract between the councillor and her daughter, is beside herself with dismay at Kovalyov’s sudden noselessness. Meanwhile, Podge Hodgkins, the cack-handed barber, is worried the finger of blame for the loss of the nose may be pointed at him.

This new company of Lecoq-graduates successfully transform Gogol’s prose into florid speech and construct an elaborately choreographed piece of movement theatre from this recondite short story. The result is intriguing, if a little overwrought in places. And, although the considerable skills of all four performers are in abundant display, ultimately Gogol’s bizarre story proves to be almost as infuriating as it is fascinating and, consequently, the company are left somewhat at the mercy of their material. Also the highly-mannered performances, although technically flawless, put too high a gloss on Gogol’s satire, thus losing some of its subtler resonances.

The show jolts to an abrupt end when Kovalyov’s nose is returned in a package, having been discovered by officials fleeing the country on the Riga Express. Such is life.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 2000

This article in the magazine

Issue 12-1
p. 26