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12 December 2006

Accidental death of a farce

Accidental Death of a Farce

To Hackney tonight to see Dario Fo’s play Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Acorn Theatre in the Hackney Empire. I saw this farce once before, from the gods in the Wyndham Theatre, where it was played by the Belt & Braces Theatre Company in 1971. I laughed my socks off and have seen everything of Fo’s that has come my way since.

This was clever and funny — it was Fo — but it was also the least funny production of any Fo play I’ve seen anywhere — I regretted dragging Miki half way across London on a winter night. How come? The cast was hugely energetic, and the tiny theatre, laid out as a stage area with two rows of seats on each of three sides, made it very in-yer-face. The production, I think, has two problems. The central figure of the madman, clearly originally written for Fo himself, is overplayed. Here he dominates the other characters too easily, rolling over their objections. We are left with no sense of him having anything at risk; he is a clever and cunning bully; we cannot sympathise with him.

Usually such intimate staging helps actors cross the boundary between stage and audience. Here the space, the violent action, and the stentorian central character combined to remove the barrier entirely. We were on stage with the actors, without a safe space in which to react. Had I laughed as I usually do at farces, I fear I would have been interrupting. Or the big guy would have come for me. Not the best.

Posted by SJT at December 12, 2006 11:46 PM


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