Sunday, July 14

Accidental Death of an Anarchist – Hope Street Theatre

One of Dario Fo’s most loved and renowned works, Accidental Death of an Anarchist is based on the true story of the Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan in 1969 and the subsequent death of Giuseppe Pinelli whilst being held in police custody.

Director Dan Meigh’s re-imagination of the play places us in a modern-day police station where a mysterious Maniac (Mat Oliphant) has just climbed through the wrong window to be encountered by Inspector Berlozzo (Phil Rayner) and Constable 1 (Noah Cambridge) who are already in possession of a warrant for his arrest. With a history tied to disruption and disturbance across the ages, the Maniac makes his escape to the fourth floor and an encounter with a Chief Inspector (Eleanor Martin), Inspector Pisoni (Connor Wray), and Constable 2 (Cambridge).

With liberal doses of black humour and satire and under the masquerade of being an investigating judge, the Maniac enquires into the inquiry into the accidental death of an anarchist: how much was accidental? How much was covered up? And how easy is it for the police to get away with either? As we ponder whether the police here are merely a metaphor for government agencies, journalist Maria Felletti (Kathryn McGurk) appears and there are no holds barred as the fallacy of telling versus selling the news is exposed.

If it sounds heavy you couldn’t be more wrong as Fo’s cleverly written play is more than competently handled by this bright and exciting company who delightfully wring every bit of comedy and drama from it, entertaining hilariously on one level whilst carefully taking us on a journey of questioning not only what we are presented with but how and why.

Less is often more and the simplest of staging, designed by Cambridge, combined with an array of unusual props and disguises, allows the wonderful talent of the company to the fore. Much of the success of the performance rests on the shoulders of Oliphant whose performance is inspired, and he maintains a high energy level throughout; in a role that could easily run away too far into the absurd, he keeps it balanced just on the right side of madness and the production is the richer for it. Yet it is not a one-man show, and the necessary anchors to his performance are provided by the rest of the cast: Wray and Rayner provide two similar yet contrasting police inspectors with strong acting performances and balanced slapstick routine. Martin is all too believable as their boss who’s been, seen, and done it all, even if the record shows she wasn’t actually there, whilst Cambridge’s two constables, distinguished by little more than a moustache, are refreshingly naïve on their road to corruption. McGurk’s appearance offers a glint of hope but as another famous Italian writer noted almost two thousand years earlier: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Rightly and sadly, this play is as relevant to when it was first performed over fifty years ago as it is now, when we cast an eye on events close to home and further afield and how they are portrayed, and the company are to be applauded for not only being brave enough to bring this insightful and witty play back to much deserved life, but to deliver it in such an engaging and comic manner.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist performs at Hope Street Theatre through to 11th May. Further details and tickets at www.hopestreettheatre.com

Off The Ground Theatre was formed with the aim of producing quality theatre which is accessible to all. They certainly delivered on that tonight. Further information on the company and their upcoming summer tour of Much Ado About Nothing can be found at https://www.offtheground.co.uk/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 9th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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