‘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

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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…

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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.

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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.

Author: ciararoddyblog

I'm a History and English Literature student writing reviews of films, TV shows and theatre production.

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