Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist is undoubtedly a hard piece to produce. Set in the complex political turmoil of Italy’s “Years of Lead,” it was written as an intense, though farcical portrayal of police corruption and brutality during the period. Yet with modern adaptations lacking both the introductory and final discussion acts – as well as audiences wholly familiar with the historical background on which the play is based – Fo’s political comedy has proven hard to translate. With that in mind, it is a huge credit to director Helgi Clayton McClure and his cast that this works so well. Led by the lively and thoroughly excellent James Galvin, and with a noteworthy performance from Richard Grumitt, Accidental Death of an Anarchist is able to deliver genuine comedy without losing sight of the serious underlying themes of the original work.
Much of the play’s success is undoubtedly down to Galvin, whose performance as The Maniac captures and holds attention from the very first scene as he switches through various guises – not to mention poorly adhered false moustaches. The rest of the cast feeds off of his seemingly limitless energy, growing more animated as the play goes on. They are helped by a rock star cameo from the director himself, during which he joins the cast for a passionate rendition of the anthem ‘Nostra Patria è il Mondo Intero’ as an anarchist guitarist. Further amusement is provided by the dim-witted quartet of police inspectors and constables headed by the superb Grumitt as the pompous yet incompetent Superintendent, producing a combination of slapstick and foolishness that serves as a foil to the elegant trickery and enigmatic rhetoric of Galvin’s Maniac.
The production was all the more impressive considering full cast rehearsals only began approximately two weeks before opening. Perhaps this showed in a couple of mistimed lines as the stage become more crowded during the latter half of the last act; these, however, were easily forgotten as the play raced to an action-filled climax of pistols, bombs and pink handcuffs to boot!
All in all, this was a truly enjoyable, if totally bizarre rendition of one of the 20th century’s most engaging dramatic pieces. Well worth a watch!