‘You’re acting mad, but in fact you’re saner than I am’ – Progress Theatre presents ‘The Accidental Death of an Anarchist’

The Accidental Death of an Anarchist was performed at the Progress Thetare in Reading, 20th – 25th February 2017



I have never heard of this play before The Progress Theatre’s production, so I was enticed to see how they would present this Italian play. Written by Dario Fo and wonderfully directed by Eva Marchetti, The Accidental Death of an Anarchist presents the audience with four police officers who were involved with the case of an anarchist suspected of bombing the National Agrarian Bank. The suspicious circumstances of what was first assumed to be his suicide, after falling from the window of his interrogation room, become clear once the case is reopened for evaluation, and the police officers in question begin to panic. This serious and heavy theme is lightened by the comedy that runs throughout – mainly through the character of The Maniac. A man known for his lunacy, having been committed to hospital sixteen times, manages to con the officers into thinking he is the Judge who shall be discussing their case. Through his discussion with the officers, he manages to unfurl all kinds of secrets and deceptions from them, as they retrace their steps from the day of the anarchist’s death, and trip up along the way…


The main praise I have for this play is the Maniac, played by John Gonzalez. His ability to convincingly portray an absolute lunatic was wildly impressive. However, it was even more so when he slowly changed from being the fidgety and mad maniac to his character of the Judge, who manages to exert authority and control over all the other characters, and makes us question whether he is truly insane. This change is performed beautifully, as he slowly and subtly is presented as one of the only sane people on the stage, whilst chaos forms between the remaining characters. These characters would not have looked out of place in a Monty Python film (and I mean that as a compliment), with their over exaggerated reactions and their slapstick humour, overall making it a fantastic play to watch.

The Maniac was over the top and comedic throughout, proving him to be popular with the audience, which was clear from the laughter that emanated throughout the theatre during his time on stage. Gonzalez acted alongside the others smoothly and there were very few hiccups, which was surprising for their first performance and I must commend them for it.

It was beautifully staged, with two of the characters on the stage before the audience had even entered the theatre. They maintained their characters, every now and then making remarks, such as having the feeling they were being watched. The Constable, portrayed by Daniel Brown showed a notable performance as the ‘office idiot’. The Constable was certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed, clear from his slow uptake and remarks, this is particularly clear when the officers are attempting to recreate their story to the ‘judge’ as his ideas are just laughable – which is good for a comedy! Brown portrays these lines with such a straight face that it’s almost impossible not to believe this character is real – making him a hilarious ridiculous character in the best way.


For me, the most interesting part of the play was the final scene. The Maniac presents how one decision, the decision of Maria Feletti, the reporter digging for a scandal, holds a great weight, and this play presents us with two different endings, depending on what she may decide. This makes for a captivating finale whilst still maintaining the light-hearted and comic tone until the very end. This play had me laughing throughout and kept me on the edge of my seat guessing about what really went on during the anarchist’s interrogation. The show was fun, clever and exciting from start to finish and undoubtedly enchanted its audience.

Come along to Trafalgar Fair to hear the tragic story of The Grinning Man…

The cast came back on stage as I stood and clapped along with the rest of the audience in sheer admiration, and then – I had to sit down. I’ve been to a lot of theatre in my life and have loved a great deal of it – however nothing I have ever seen has had an impact on me the way The Grinning Man has. I had to sit back down as my friend and I contemplated what we had just experienced. I was trying extremely hard not to break down into tears (unsuccessfully, I might add – the crying went on for the next half hour). Although this was a sad tale of tragedy, it wasn’t the sadness that hit me – it was told through such beautiful means I could not be too sad. It was the beautiful way in which it was told, and the stunning direction that went into every single movement that made this theatre experience one I would never forget. The words I wanted to express my feelings did not come for a long time after the show and I was left speechless – and for anyone who knows me personally knows that this is a very hard thing to achieve!

Sitting a mere metre from the stage I was able to have the most intimate experience with this musical, in the already intimate theatre in Trafalgar Studios. The close relationship the cast have shone through this production. The entire production is one that screams teamwork, particularly through the puppetry – this was done so skilfully and magically (I honestly can’t think of a better description) that it really felt as though the young Grinpayne was on stage. The fact that the puppet was mastered by the real Grinpayne was beautiful, and I feel it showed his longing to discover himself.


To ignore the puppetry would be sinful, as it was so incredibly stunning. The work of James Alexander- Taylor as Mojo, and Louis Maskell, Julie Atherton, Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié (to name a few) was phenomenal.

On top of that the movement, reflecting throughout Grinpayne being under control of those around him, was beautiful and flawless. This was done with such ease and was a credit to the actors and the choreographer, Jane Gibson. Her movement direction is quite simply stunning.

Grinpayne and Dea

The cast were phenomenally talented singers and actors, in particular Mark Anderson as Dirry-Moir and Amanda Wilkin as Josiana. They added the much-needed comic relief in this tragic tale, and they did it perfectly. The comic timing of Mark Anderson, particularly whilst he watched the performance of The Grinning Man from the side, was hilarious. Added with him, Amanda Wilkin was a force to be reckoned with. Her singing talent and ability to hold the entire audience on her every word is stunning. On top of that Claire-Marie Hall, playing Dea, was hauntingly beautiful. I saw the understudy for the role and she was absolutely wonderful – her voice blew me away as well as her skills in acting the blind girl – she was simply perfect.

I have to mention the fantastic and inspiring Louis Maskell as Grinpayne. His vocal range for a start was beautiful and made me wish I was as talented as he is; he sang as though it were no effort at all. Maskell developed this character into his own and had so many mannerisms of Grinpayne that I was fully immersed in the idea that this was a real man and I was hearing his tragic tale. His ability to move his body as though someone was controlling his movements was beautiful and have him a puppet like persona throughout the play until he finally started to find his true self. This was particularly mesmerising in ‘I Am the Freak Show’ These small attentions to detail, like the slight wobbling of his head, is what sets this show and his talent above anything I have seen before. His talent, it seems, is endless and he should feel, as I’m sure he does, extremely proud of the character he has helped bring to life.

Grinpayne 1

The set on top of every other wonderful aspect of this play helped to invite every audience member into the play. Set designer Jon Bausor has made it so that from the moment you step through the Studio One door, you are in the play. You walk through a corridor and are surrounded by the peeling wallpaper of the Trafalgar Fair and the posters for the Grinning Man spectacle. As well as this, the fairy lights that covered the entire theatre made me feel I was really a part of the events. This was only heightened by the fact that characters often climbed on to the box in the central of the audience to perform, inches away from audience members, and it was especially beautiful when Dea and Grinpayne climbed their way through the audience to their new lives. This was a stunning direction by Tom Morris and let the audience feel like they were a part of their journey too.

This entire production was stunning, moving and altogether had a wonderful message of changing society’s norms and beliefs which is all too relevant today. I have already planned my next trip to see this show and I will certainly be back again before its run ends in April – if you haven’t seen it yet then I plead with you to go and see it as soon as possible – I can promise it will not disappoint!


*All photos credited to the professional photography of the official The Grinning Man production*

The English Touring Theatre presents Conor McPherson’s ‘The Weir’

A haunting performance in more ways than one…The Weir will have your hairs stand on end and move you at the same time

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In a small pub in the backs and beyond of Ireland, a group of people shelter from the ongoing storm, which results in them sharing their innermost eerie experiences that until now they’ve kept to themselves. This play is not only a beautiful exploration of the supernatural and ghostly visits, but it also openly addresses the idea of loneliness in the group. All the characters in Conor McPherson’s masterpiece are experiencing their own type of solitude which becomes more and more apparent throughout the play.

The pure beauty of this play and its performance is in the language and the accuracy that McPherson has captured and put into his writing. This play could be dropped into any Irish pub and would not stand out to the other pub-goers. The colloquialisms and language used is identical and it successfully invites you into the pub setting and makes you feel as though you are there… however this only makes the haunting stories even more so as you feel as though you are there with them, sat by the fire hearing about the ghost of the girl, the vision of the man in the graveyard and the terrifying cry from beyond the grave…The intimacy of the set invites the audience in further, especially in fairly small Anthony Hopkins Theatre in Theatr Clywd, where you could almost feel the collective outtake of breath of relief from the audience as each eerie tale ended.

The ability of each actor to have the entire audience hold on to their every word was phenomenal, and this was shown particularly by Sean Murray as Jack. The opening scene of the play shows Jack silently coming into Brendan’s pub and he is just that for the next few minutes – silent. He does not speak a word and yet his ability to clearly show his every emotion and even thought process to each audience member was commendable. I found these few minutes fascinating and appreciated the talent and the skill in which Murray delivered this short sequence of events. However, I must applaud the entire cast as they took to the intimate nature of this show perfectly and presented it in a breath-taking way.

As a lover of all ghost stories, I had thought that this was a traditional horror tale and at first felt hard done by. However, I soon realised that this was not actually a ghost tale through and through, although whilst it does have a chilling aspect with the stories they tell, it is more a story of loneliness and finding comfort in those around you and sometimes in the most unexpected places. This was all heightened by the beautiful way it was staged. I must recognise the talents of director Adele Thomas, who used the lighting and sounds perfectly to create the atmosphere needed for this kind of play. For example, as each character told their story, they were slowly but surely isolated from the rest of the group, showing the listeners on the other side of the stage to the one speaking. This had a huge effect on my view of the play and allowed me to grasp onto the theme of loneliness even more, for which I feel the direction of this production was beautiful.

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Photos taken from the Theatr Clywd’s website. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the English Touring Theatre’s production of The Weir. It was heart-warming, funny and wonderfully presented and acted, allowing the audience to feel like they were really a part of the Irish atmosphere and made for a wonderful evening out. If you’re able to catch this touring production I would definitely try and see the incredibly talented cast and crew!

‘For the first time I’m using my body just for me and I feel like a goddamn superhero’

Credit: @GlowNetflix on Twitter

GLOW, or ‘Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling’, as it stands for, is the newest show to hit Netflix. I saw this advertised for over a month, with two minute clips and interviews storming my social media pages and all I could think was ‘this show really isn’t for me’. I have never been interested in wrestling in the past and it just seemed a little too over the top for me. When it finally came out I casually put on the first episode…and finished the series the next day. This show was so real I couldn’t stop watching. Whilst it is fictional, the general origin story of women’s wrestling is very real and very successful!

GLOW opens with Ruth Wilder – an aspiring actress who is down on her luck. Then she hears of the audition for GLOW, directed by Sam Sylvia. We see the audition process of a group of women learning the basics of wrestling (it’s quite funny to watch at the start) and as the group gets smaller, we finally meet the women that made the cut. One of the best things about this show is the diversity in body types – we don’t just see stick thin women, but we get some curves and larger women who are confident and strong – this is a rarity in TV even now, and it was refreshing to see! Watching the women grow throughout the ten episodes made me feel so supportive that when they successfully performed some of the difficult moves I was fist punching the air and getting emotional along with the crowd and may or may not have had blurry eyes a few times…

Credit: Cosmopolitan

Not only does this show present the difficulties women faced, particularly in the world of acting, which we see all too clearly in the opening scene, but it also shows Sam Sylvia’s struggles with his career. Despite his hard work people fail to take him seriously as a director and he struggles with creativity for his future films. In addition to this, we see the loneliness he feels and his destructive nature to push those closest to him away – the only person to become his true friend is Ruth, whose positive attitude seems to bring a little more light in to his life. This is what makes the show so real – it truthfully presents the struggles of men and women without any flowery cover – it’s raw and truthful and speaks to its audience.

Alison Brie’s performance is outstanding to say the least! Not only does she play such a strong leading female character, who pushes through all the barriers in her way and is annoyingly persistent at times, but Brie is able to portray SO many different acting talents. As her character is an actress, we see her auditioning for different roles and taking on many different characters – the main one being the Russian villain ‘Zoya the Destroya’, her wrestling persona– and she has such a wide range of abilities it is incredible to watch!  For the first time we see Brie as more of a villain than the sweet character we’re used to, and I love it.

Credit: @GlowNetflix on Twitter

GLOW is a comedy-drama that will definitely have you laughing throughout, even during the more serious scenes – the women grow together and you go on their ride with them through all their struggles and their successes, and it’s an amazing journey to go on! Not to mention the COSTUMES! The costume design in incredible – it’s bright, it’s tight and does everything right – and the make-up and hair to go with it is just as amazing! They delved into the 80s vibe and all the incredible (and sometimes dreadful) trends that were fashionable and it works so well. If nothing else has sold this show, perhaps that will! It’s an incredible show so make sure that GLOW is on your watch list for this summer!

‘You wanted fire?’ Riverdale will give you a battle between fire and ice you won’t be forgetting in a hurry…

A review of one of the latest Netflix Originals of 2017…

In the last couple of years there has been a surge of ‘Netflix Original’ TV shows making their way to the popular website, and Riverdale is one of the latest and, in my personal opinion, the most riveting and exciting one yet. As a student, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t sat my way through the majority of these binge worthy shows like Making a Murderer, Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why – it’s the best way of procrastinating from university essays and reading, of course! I have been impressed with all of the above shows and many more, however Riverdale is somewhat different…

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The show is narrated by the Riverdale High social outcast Jughead Jones (yes, that really is his actual name, and he has a sister called Jellybean…), and it begins with explaining what happened on July 4th Weekend. This tale is set in your classic American small suburban town, where danger is unheard of and a perfect public image is the most important part of people’s lives…On the 4th July, the show explains, someone in this town dies – although this is explained in the opening scene, I won’t discuss who this is, however I will explain that this death, initially assumed to be a mere accident, becomes a murder investigation – and the show becomes very much a ‘whodunit’ – a genre that is exciting, fast paced and has you wondering and accusing various characters throughout. This, on top of a family feud between the Blossoms and the Coopers, and the increasing amount of incriminating evidence against the Lodge family makes Riverdale an extremely exciting watch.

(Left to right) Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper and Archie Andrews. (Background: Josie, Jughead Jones and Cheryl Blossom)

I must commend this show firstly for the characters it portrays. Some may argue that the main characters (Betty, Veronica, Archie and Jughead) are not ‘deep’ enough – perhaps the show does not go into expanding their characters enough. However, these characters are all so very typical in any America show that there really is no need to do so. You have Betty, the ‘good girl’ – a straight A student, a cheerleader, a real ambassador for Riverdale High; Veronica, the ‘bad girl’ – she’s a new student from New York trying to fix her bitchy track record; Jughead is the social outcast who keeps himself to himself and would rather stay observing the case rather than being a part of it, and Archie, the dreamy Quarterback whose problems are far more trivial than everyone else’s (seriously, you wouldn’t believe how little he has to deal with compared to his friends). There is no need to delve deep into these characters as we know them all already – we’ve probably been friends with the same supposedly perfect characters, however, this show does give us some ambivalence. Betty, the nice girl, undoubtedly has a dark streak within her, which comes to light very dramatically, and Cheryl Blossom, whom you will certainly despise at first, is neither good nor bad – she is the most confusing and yet the strongest character of them all and you are bound to fall in love with her fire, strength and darkness throughout the show.

Cheryl Blossom uncovering the dark truth about her family…

As any TV programme would, this show does have its pitfalls, though they are few and far between. Every now and then I would cringe at the way the teens spoke – I’m not sure if this was a little dig at young people today, focussing on how much time we teenagers spend on social media these days, or if the writers of the show genuinely think that teenagers actually speak in hashtags – but throughout the show, particularly Cheryl Blossom, the characters would say things such as ‘hashtag Riverdale Strong’. This may be an American stereotype that we in England aren’t used to, but watching the show I can safely say that it was slightly cringe to say the least. However having a slightly awkward sentence here and there is hardly a negative comment for an entire series and therefore is a very minor criticism. As well as this, there were a few far-fetched discoveries that were made by the teenagers, and it is hard to believe that four teenagers were able to find more evidence than the Sheriff or the police department, giving it a slight Scooby-Doo vibe, but then again – its fiction, and it’s exciting and hardly a criticism of the show. Riverdale is packed full of action in every minute – there were no ‘filler’ episodes, and it was by no means slow. Every episode had so many twists and turns and dramatic discoveries that I binged it in a few days and could not stop watching. I would recommend waiting for exams to be over before starting this show – you will be wondering who committed the murder and what on earth is going on from start to finish – it is certainly one of the most exciting shows I’ve watched in a long time! Make sure you catch it on Netflix soon.