Dario Fo wrote Accidental Death of An Anarchist in response to the death of suspected anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli in 1969. The play premiered in 1970 serving as a critical statement against the governmentally endorsed police violence that accompanied widespread political unrest. Performing Simon Nye’s British cultural translation the production was directed by Anna Lee Jones.
Testament to the Italian genre of commedia dell’arte, none of Fo’s humour fell by the wayside, which can sometimes be expected from a translated text. Playing the Maniac, Jack Briggs led the cast in both fantastic physical spectacle and witty dialogue delivery.
When compared to Fo’s original Italian text the most notable alteration came at the end of the first act. Cutting to black with a full cast rendition of N.W.A’s ‘Fuck the Police’ replaced the traditional revolutionary song. This politically correct version subtly brought attention to everyone’s most disdained controversy, whilst making light of the origins of the song. Herein lies the disjunction of this modernized version. The comedy still stands but no political bite remains. Besides the replaced revolutionary song there was also references to long forgotten British political tensions. In contrast to the deep rooted violence that inspired Fo’s work this British adaptation felt wistfully bound to some out of date folklore. Still, the comedy stood, jumping even, after the lights were raised as the cast sung ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ accompanied by a ukulele.
These observations are thus directed to comment on the fortunately safe political climate that we live in. Overall the production was extremely professional with no noticeable slips or missed cues, providing an exciting viewing experience.
Hugh Mitchell Casey
Featured image courtesy of Mermaids