Writer: Dario Fo
Adaptor: Deborah McAndrew
Director: Kevin Shaw
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
You could say that this is a timely revival. But, sad to say, there’s never been a time in over forty years of this play’s life that it hasn’t been topical. Written in response to the bungled interrogation of a bombing suspect in Milan, Dario Fo’s 1970 satire on police corruption and cover up seems as politically sharp as ever. The freshness is certainly helped by Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation, written for a 2008 Northern Broadsides production, and a liberal dose of bang up to date topical references – from Breaking Bad to PlebGate – thrown in for good measure.
Accidental Death of an Anarchist, one of Fo’s best known and most successful plays, is a fascinating mix of slapstick farce and clever parody. Nowhere in the history of theatre do madcap chase scenes sit quite so easily with radical ideals. Plenty have aped Fo’s pantomimic style but few have managed to infuse it with such serious meaning.
Director Kevin Shaw has put together a great cast who pretty much hold up against the play’s physical and high-energy demands. They’re like a line-up of TV detectives from the past forty years – from Leigh Symonds leather-jacketed DI Pisani who could have just stepped off the set of Z-Cars to Andonis Anthony’s sharp suited DI Bertozzo. Symonds and Matt Connor, who plays Detectives 1 and 2, deliver some great physical comedy along with Jack Lord, the Maniac, who appears out of a filing cabinet to create mayhem and deliver something akin to divine retribution on the corrupt, and unwitting, members of the constabulary.
The central rôle is a demanding one, raising a challenge for any actor to keep up the pace, particularly in the early scenes. Lord has some moments in the first half where he seems to be trying too hard, particularly when he’s called on to hold the stage alone, but he relaxes into things when he’s backed up by the others and in the end delivers a highly accomplished comic performance with just the right amount of clowning. He pulls off the asides to the audience well too, delivering them with the camp, off-handed flagrancy of a cabaret MC.
But it’s when the really screwball scenes kick in that everything really comes together. Shaw’s direction is beautifully complemented by Renny Krupinski’s fight scenes which start as slapstick (complete with on-stage sound effects) but rapidly turn brutal, and beautifully delivered salsa numbers, choreographed by Catherine Kinsella, which come out of the blue and are an absurd delight.
Foxton’s set is old school, workable, and unremarkable. It’s hard to place the production in any decade – 2010s references but no computers or mobile phones – but that only adds to the timeless nature of the subject in hand. Accidental Death of an Anarchist really is, in the very best sense, a bit of fun, and The Coliseum once again proves that it can deliver solid, enjoyable productions that provide a great night out.
Photo: Joe Fildes | Runs until 22 March 2014