Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City reviewed

PUBLISHED: 12:28 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:27 20 February 2017

John Keogh as Inspector Pissani, Ben Falkiner as the Constable, Godfrey Marriott as the Maniac and Mark Skrebels as Superintendant Palmi in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

John Keogh as Inspector Pissani, Ben Falkiner as the Constable, Godfrey Marriott as the Maniac and Mark Skrebels as Superintendant Palmi in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

John Davies

Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Nobel-winning Italian actor-playwright Dario Fo, has opened at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Maggie Blackburn reviews the political satire.

Ben Falkiner as the constable, John Keogh as Inspector Pissani, and Mark Skrebels as Superintendant Palmi in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies] Ben Falkiner as the constable, John Keogh as Inspector Pissani, and Mark Skrebels as Superintendant Palmi in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

Inspired by a real event, the so-called ‘accidental’ death of a suspect in an Italian police station in 1969, this week’s modern classic at the Barn is usually labelled as a farce.

To me it seems more like a scream of anger disguised as a howl of laughter.

The action of the play starts some time after the death referred to in the title, and is entirely fictional.

We see an inveterate con man, known as ‘the Maniac’ fooling the police into believing he is a judge sent to cover up the true facts of the case by carrying out a phoney judicial review.

John Keogh as Inspector Pissani, Ben Falkiner as the constable Hope Eddy as Maria Feletti,Mark Skrebels as Superintendant Palmi in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies] John Keogh as Inspector Pissani, Ben Falkiner as the constable Hope Eddy as Maria Feletti,Mark Skrebels as Superintendant Palmi in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

The police are revealed not just in all their wickedness, but also their monumental stupidity.

It is indeed a very funny play, but its intent is wholly serious, and the sober ending is a chilling indictment of the corrupt Italian politics of the time.

Godfrey Marriott is superbly versatile as the Maniac, driving the action forward and switching with great conviction from one pretend character to another.

He is ably supported by senior policemen Adam Dryer, Mark Skrebels, and John Keogh.

Ben Falkiner, as the humble unnamed constable, had on the whole rather less opportunity to shine, until just before the interval when he leads the singing of the anarchist anthem in authentic sounding Italian and a voice of operatic quality.

If I have one criticism of the acting it is that at times it’s too much over the top, even for Dario Fo – not a comment I would ever have expected to make, and prompted to some extent by comparison with the skilled and relatively restrained performance from Hope Eddy as the journalist Maria Feletti, who gets invited to interview one of the cops and therefore overhears their unmasking.

Technically the production is as excellent as one expects of the Barn, and Laura Eddy’s sure directorial hand keeps the whole thing rattling along at a fine pace.

The humour throughout is ribald and black, there is at least one joke in staggeringly bad taste, and a certain amount of bad language.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist can be seen at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City Accidental Death of an Anarchist can be seen at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

If you find any of that upsetting you should probably stay away.

But Nobel Prize winner Fo would have approved of this production.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist plays at the Barn until Saturday, February 25.

Evening performances are at 8pm, with a Saturday matinée on February 25 at 2.30pm.

Tickets cost £12.

Call the box office on 01707 324300 or book online at the Barn’s wesbite at www.barntheatre.co.uk

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