Accidental Death of an Anarchist: a triumph of unconventional comedy


The 19th and 20th of February brought a meticulously executed adaptation of Dario Fo’s ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ to St Andrews’ oscillating theatre scene. The play consisted of ninety minutes of high energy, high action, and much mirth. The story follows the exploitation of a gullible police team by a psychotic madman, and was originally based upon the true story of an Italian anarchist who fell – or was thrown – to his death from the fourth story window of a police station in Milan in 1969. The narrative satirises the corruption within Mussolini’s Italy at the time of its writing


There were notable performances from Jack Briggs – credit goes to him for his near perfect, incredibly fast, recital of his lines, and his convincing portrayal of someone who had gone mad sixteen times – and Matthew Colley, whose superb portrayal of the bewildered Constable was a particular highlight. Mishia Leggett, too, really ramped up the energy with her portrayal of the long-suffering Superintendent.

Matthew Colley as The Constable
Matthew Colley as The Constable


The cast made excellent use of the available space in order to assure that the lack of scene changes did not compromise the entertainment of the audience. The lighting and costuming were ‘on the money’ so to speak; the maniac’s various ‘metamorphoses’, whilst simple, were very enjoyable and worked to highly comedic effect – I also particularly liked the way in which the set slowly disintegrated alongside the narrative.


Though the play was humorous throughout, it must be said that the cast’s ‘dulcet’ performance of ‘Fuck the Police’ – met with screams of laughter and applause – really ended the first act on a high; this energy was noticeably carried through the interval and onwards into the second half, where a few of my personal favourite moments included the unassuming doughnut munching of the Constable and the removal of a pair of fluffy pink handcuffs from one of the Inspector’s desk drawers.

Jack Briggs as The Maniac
Jack Briggs as The Maniac


Funny though ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ certainly was, there was a morally motivated dialogue which at times was undermined by the insistence of the comedy – I feel that some of the ‘kerfuffle’ and ‘shenanigans’, funny as they were, could have been sacrificed without significant detriment to the overall humour of the play, in order for a more successful relaying of the moral messages. The most significant example of this was the scene in which the maniac attempts to deliver a speech upon the ills of society to the audience – the moral intention of the speech, not to mention the stellar acting of Jack Briggs, was rather demeaned by the raucous, distracting interaction between Bertozzo and the Constable which had the audience laughing as opposed to listening.


If ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ had any flaw, it would be this – that too much was done in the pursuit of laughs: this goal was achieved, and so I feel that the original satirical intention was somewhat lost. That being said, overall this production was nothing if not well-executed, professional, and worth its salt in terms of Saturday night entertainment.



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