Published on February 21st, 2017 | by Julia Bohanna0
Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist – Progress Theatre
Could there be any more pertinent piece of theatre for Progress to stage in our current political climate than Accidental Death of an Anarchist? In 2017 humans have elected the peculiar and voted for the absurd. There is a sting in every news report as we wait wide-eyed for more shocking ‘never the same day by day’ political nonsense.
Politics is soured and smeared with anger, corruption, fear, terrorism and lies. Is the far right and a whisper of fascism to blame, or is it the fault of the indulgent liberal left? We live in interesting and dangerous times.
In the dark ‘Years of Lead’ in Italy when terrorism and suspicion pervaded, it was also brutally true. The strength of late Nobel Prize laureate Dario Fo’s farce – Accidental Death of an Anarchist – is in the energy and the spirited examination of how railway worker Pino Pinelli met his end in police custody in 1969. How did this ‘dangerous anarchist’ die falling from a hard to reach fourth floor window? Only the clownish maniac, a mercurial master of disguise, seems to be able to scratch at the truth. Don’t ignore the bomb!
John Gonzalez as The Maniac had his own astonishing energy, reminding me of Rising Damp’s Leonard Rossister with his qualities of expressiveness and twisty, compelling physicality. He morphed with sly intent from asylum inmate, to fake respectability, then into the grotesque, with eye patch and ivory-coloured prosthetic hand. He exuded naughtiness but it was a strong and layered performance, because we sense the dark underbelly of death and destruction, of anger as he exposes corruption. Will the media’s sharply-tuned Maria Feletti (beautifully and pertly portrayed by Débora Rochfort) triumph and expose a better alternative truth – the final truth? Don’t forget the bomb!
It was a strong ensemble piece from the rest of Progress’s cast too, with Daniel Brown’s lovely comic turn as the daft expressive constable and a trio of finely drawn police characters using the business of doors and gaping window well to make themselves look more and more guilty. With Italian Eva Marchetti directing and fellow Italian Stefano Pietrosanti designing the posters, it also gave a strong and authentic Italian flavour to proceedings. Productions of Accidental Death have been criticised in the past for being somewhat anglicised but Progress have remained true to Fo’s passion, his roots, his magical mischief.
This is wonderful play very close to my heart, beautifully staged by the ever-professionally minded Progress. It made me feel young and extremely happy, with that nostalgic student sense that yes, you can change the world if you shout loud enough, with fury and self-belief at your core. As it states in Pietro Goti’s The Hymn of Anarchist: ‘We have but one thought, revolution in our hearts’. So rise up from your sleepy stoicism and buy tickets now, before the proletariat steal them all!