Accidental Death of an Anarchist
And to your left you will see CAITLIN DOHERTY applauding Fletcher Players’ choice of play, but unfortunately no subsequent ones.
Corpus Playroom, 17th-21st May, 9.30pm, £5-6
Directed by Gwenfair Hawkins, Kate Wilson and Holly Green
It was a pleasant surprise to see that this year’s Corpus thesp intake is made up of militant left radicals, engaged in the discourse of revolutionary syndicalism and eager to debunk the bourgeois notion of reformatory democracy.
But it was a pity that the Fletcher Players freshers’ ideological commitment to non-hierarchical leadership resulted in the show having three (count them) directors.
The law of diminishing returns has quite a lot of useful stuff to say about this. Though there’s not anything inherently wrong with putting three people in charge of one show, there’s quite a lot wrong with a production in which a strong cast have obviously been chronically under-directed throughout.
The performers’ energy didn’t ever dip during the hour and twenty-ish minutes, but neither was it channelled into any other pace than shouty mania – a failure which meant that the character of Maniac (Max Upton) never got the chance to develop beyond the hyperactive obvious.
Fo’s script demands a certain amount of pissing on the fourth wall, but any dramatic interpretation of this has to go a step beyond just highlighting the artifice of performance when the stage directions say so.
Photographs provided by the production
The Maniac is a master of disguise. He doesn’t have to be a good one, but his failure to conceal himself is only funny if he’s actually made a bit of an effort, or at least tried a silly voice.
Upton himself can’t be condemned for this, his performance showed all the signs of a potentially brilliant Maniac bubbling away beneath the surface, but he needed stronger direction to be able to bring this out in a theatrically effective way.
This criticism is symptomatic of what was wrong with the production as a whole: it employed competent comic acting for what should have been a display of ridiculous farcical clowning.
Like any theatrical form, there are conventions for slapstick humour, but the cast didn’t seem confident enough to put these into practice where they were needed.
James Parris’ explosive Inspector Bertozzo was the most physically and vocally developed performance, though Tara Mansell also had moments of gurning genius as his colleague Inspector Pissani.
Sophie Outhwaite, as journalist Maria Feletti, gave her lines a nice mix of sultry and smug, but unfortunately most of them were inaudible from my position in the audience – a problem that reflected a more general issue with ill-considered blocking and a need for better breath control.
The Fletcher Players’ decision to stage this play should obviously be applauded. The production was energetic and at points very funny, but lacked the confidence and ambition to find its own humour away from the script.
There are moments in Fo’s writing specifically earmarked for directors and performers to ad lib or update political references. In an age in which state violence is still endemic, it was disappointing that the production didn’t make more of these opportunities.