BWW REVIEW: ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST Is An Absurd And Amusing Fight For Justice Presented By A Fabulous Female Cast.
Friday 14th September 201, 8pm, Drama Theatre Sydney Opera House
ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST is Francis Greenslade and Sarah Giles' (also Director) fabulously fun, all female adaptation of Dario Fo's farce Morte Accidental Di Un Anarchico. Highlighting corruption and coverups through clever subterfuge, this is a clever physical and linguistic comedy presented by a wonderful cross-dressing cast.
Dario Fo's Italian work, which debuted in 1970, was written as a response to the death of Giuseppe Pinelli, an anarchist accused of a bombing a bank who apparently fell to his death from a fourth floor window of a Milan police station the year before. Whilst the police officers that were interrogating Pinelli weren't investigated till 1971, Fo's work provides a fictional exploration of the integrity of the police.
On the third floor of a Milan police station Inspector Bertozzo (Julie Forsyth) is interviewing the serial fraudster known simply as The Maniac (Amber McMahon) as it is too hard to pinpoint his real identity. In and out of mental institutions that have afforded The Maniac an extensive education which combines with a quick wit and apparently tenuous grip on reality, he has built a wish list of 'characters' he'd like to perform. When Bertozzo is out of the office, he sees his opportunity to tick off the pinnacle of personas, a Judge, in this case Judge Malipiero who is on his way to investigate the apparent suicide of an anarchist accused of attempting to blow up a bank. Chaos naturally ensues as the mand who has made a living out of fabrications unearths the lies from those meant to uphold justice.
Designer Jonathon Oxlade utilizes the Drama Theatre's wide letter box stage to present an incredibly detailed late 1960's police station complete with a broad window overlooking the rooftops of Milan. Cream walls are accented with a pale turquoise door frames and dado panel and black and white chequerboard linoleum create the base of the worn out space. A smaller constable's desk serves as gatekeeper to the respective inspector's larger cluttered desk. Clues as to location and context along with impending gags are scattered throughout the stage, from the sign indicating the floor and the unusual angle of the fire extinguisher. The panorama through the window has a surprising depth, not being trompe l'oeil but an expression of a living city skyline that helps indicates the transition of time.
Whilst traditionally all but one character is male, Giles has taken her cues from famous comedians Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon and gathered a group of fabulous female actors to take on the bumbling officers and cunning Maniac. Instead of inverting all the roles Giles keeps reporter Maria Feletti, the 'straight' foil amongst the mayhem as being presented by a female, Annie Maynard. Oxlade does a brilliant job of transforming Caroline Brazier, Julie Forsyth, Bessie Holland, Susie Youssef and Amber McMahon into caricatures of the men they represent. Drawing on sterotypes of the 1960's and 1970's the constables are the inept sidekicks, so low in the structure that they can't be afforded properly fitting clothes from Constable 1's (Annie Maynard) too short pants and Constable 2's (Susie Youssef) awkward uniform hat. The inspectors are lifted out of an old gumshoe detective show where polyester and tacky with eccentric individuality reigns supreme. The more senior Superintendent has a more respectable three piece suit whilst reporter Feletti is presented with 'fashionable' flairs and an abundance of skivvies feature throughout the cast as an additional method of masking the performers femininity along with an excess of facial hair.
Whilst all performances are artfully executed the standout is Amber McMahon, well known for her expression of confident comic characters. She captures the pace of the piece perfectly and has a precision in her physicality from the simplest of glances to manipulating fake limbs and 'dancing' across window sills. As always, she is able to create a wickedly delicious expression of a wildly unhinged character that isnt quite laying everything bare. She balances the absurd physicality with a nonchalance to make it seem less absurd and more absurd all at the same time, giving the expression a vibrancy and impression of spontaneity.
Reinforcing the ongoing distrust of authority, the ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST is timely in its retelling. The work that at face value is light and fun echoes real world worries about the manipulation of the facts fed to the public and it makes you wish that the Maniac was real and was able to infiltrate the houses of power to expose the misinformation and abuses of authority. Fun and fabulously engaging, ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST is an easy night of theatre for audiences that have wanted the truth to win and anyone that enjoys seeing strong female performers subverting the status quo.
ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST
10 September - 27 October 2018