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Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Dario Fo
Acorn Theatre, Hackney Empire
(2006)

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It was quite difficult to work out what was missing in the latest version of Dario Fo's politically charged play to hit London. Accidental Death of An Anarchist at the Acorn Theatre, Hackney Empire, had its moments but did seem to lack the glue which could transpose its clever script into a brilliant show.

There was the strong comic presence of Mike Goodenough as the Maniac, yet despite his quick wit and rapport with the audience he was so close to being over the top that one could imagine the audience members either loving or hating him. There was also an understated performance from Christopher Dingli, whose timing and presence as the Constable was consistent throughout.

There were lovely directorial touches by Tarek Iskander - the light, cheeky masked set changers, the little physical moments of anticipation and the drawing of the audience into the show, which certainly added spice and energy to a 'wordy' piece. There was also a climatic finale to the first act, which raised everyone's spirits for the interval.

The idea of setting it in such an intimate space really worked too. It felt as though we were in on the act, sitting in on the interrogation and the actors certainly did their bit to include us in the proceedings. The thrust setting was also a nice touch and made for staging that never seemed tired - indeed, I wondered whether Iskander might have staged the play in the round if he had the space.

Yet there was still something that did not click here. Perhaps it was the dropped lines, or little drops in energy. Perhaps it was that despite small flashes the piece lacked an ensemble effort and instead seemed to be a collection of 'big performers.'

A play that could make you angry, could leave you wanting to write to Amnesty and sign petitions, didn't quite have that power. There were lots of comic moments, big (and small) laughs, yet the serious bits, the parts which could have packed the punch seemed to be missing somehow.

This is all a little disappointing because the political timing of this play couldn't be more suitable. Just as we are presented with a farcical police force in this play, failing to convince us of an 'accidental' death, we hear of another botched shooting in our own newspapers. The whole debacle felt altogether too familiar.

"Accidental Death of An Anarchist" plays until 9th December

Reviewer: John Johnson