The Company of Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Photo by Helen Murray.

Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist @ Playhouse

Last night the Crucible’s Tanya Moiseiwitch Playhouse stage was christened with its first production, an adaptation of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which made for a raucous opening filled with romps, laughs and awkward truths.

Award-winning writer Tom Basden has shifted the original setting of 1970s Italy to modern-day Britain, but the premise remains the same: a rail worker – claimed by the police to be an anarchist – has died in dubious circumstances having allegedly thrown himself from a fourth-floor interview room.

Naturally, the resident plod are rather skittish about the whole affair, anxieties which are heightened by the doings of our protagonist, the Maniac, a shapeshifting, fourth-wall breaking actor suffering from a severe case of istrionomania (“the condition of compulsively needing to perform,” we’re told).

Scarred by such an affliction, when the Maniac realises that there’s something crooked at play, he swiftly begins adopting a variety of guises with the aim of unravelling the increasingly unconvincing series of events put forward by the officers.

Daniel Rigby is on untouchable form in the lead role. He bounds around the stage with a seemingly unlimited reserve of energy, gleefully toying with those present and repeatedly teasing out corruption within their ranks. The satirical heart of the play is brought right up to date with references to recent policing scandals and examinations of archaic attitudes in a changing world that demands accountability (“I don’t even know what unconscious bias is, but I hate it!” is one memorable quote).

Amidst all the fun and frolics – of which there are oodles – the serious message of how corruption continues to rear its head in our most powerful institutions is repeatedly brought to the fore. The closing reminder that since 1970, when the play was first premiered, there have been over 3,000 deaths in police custody provided a sobering final thought for an audience still catching its breath from a truly riotous evening of entertainment.

4/5 JF 

Accidental Death of an Anarchist runs at Playhouse until 15th Oct. You can find tickets and more info here.

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