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The Theatreguide.London Review

Accidental Death Of An Anarchist
Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith     Spring 2022

Tom Basden’s very funny contemporary adaptation of the satirical 1970 play Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo and Franca Rame seems very timely.

It arrives in London just as an official government report into the Metropolitan Police points to the institutional failures to deal with entrenched prejudice along with violent and abusive behaviour in its ranks.

Although mention is made of the police violence at Clapham Common which prompted the report along with other topical issues (The Home Secretary is described as being down at the Channel trying to get refugees with her BB gun) the original central storyline of 1970 is kept.

The man referred to as The Maniac poses as Judge Randall ('My pronouns are we and us') sent to the police station to investigate the supposed accidental death of a railway worker falling from the fourth floor of the police interrogation room.

As he runs verbal rings around the officers, he demonstrates the absurdity of their claims but then consoles them with the admission that it just means lots of inquiries (the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry gets a mention) until people have forgotten about it and the evidence has been destroyed.

In this satire almost everything said by the fast-talking Daniel Rigby as the maniac is amusing. Even the visuals such as the characters standing on a window ledge has the audience roaring with laughter.

The first fifty minutes of this confident performance are tight and focused on police misbehaviour.

But during the second half, when the journalist Phelan (Ruby Jackson) arrives claiming to attend climate change protests and drive an electric car, attention seems to shift to mocking the media and the show’s finish deviates from the original.

The confident and impressive cast includes Tony Gardner as the authoritarian and brutal Superintendent Curry and Howard Ward as the almost permanently bewildered Inspector Burton.

This hilarious show concludes with most of the audience standing to applaud as a sobering statement projected onto the back wall of the stage reveals that since 1990 there have been 1,850 deaths in police custody in England and Wales.

Keith McKenna

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Review - Accidental Death Of An Anarchist - Lyric Hammersmith Theatre 2023

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