Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Zephyr Penoyre finds the play entertaining, if a little grey

accidental death Accidental Death of an Anarchist cambridge comedy Cambridge Theatre Corpus Playroom dario fo farce political farce


Imagine the scene; it’s an oppressively hot afternoon in Milan. Every window in the police station is flung wide open, the echo of people and laughter waft their way up from the cobbles below. The office itself is filled with larger than life characters, spitting and spiflicating, scheming and smouldering, and in this heady atmosphere the whole world takes on the air of surreal farce.

Now transpose this scene to an industrial park in Scunthorpe. It’s pretty much the same right? Well. There’s probably still a decent amount of spitting. The windows are mostly closed though. It’s probably raining.

This is what this production of ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ does. It takes the political intrigue of the 1970s from the heart of institutionalised corruption, and drops it into our modern day, middle-of-the-road, starched shirts and budget cuts police system. It’s a flatter world, the characters are roughly life-sized, the exhilarating highs and dizzying lows are as contoured as the Cambridge countryside and there’s a sense of strident purpose akin to that you might feel watching a particularly slow tortoise trying to eat a particularly fast growing leaf.

Most of the cast play into this wonderfully, with performances ranging from dazzling meh to staunchly in-attendance. The exception to this raises the play from dull slog to quite entertaining: the Maniac, played by Sam Knights, whose erratic changes of mood, motivation, accent and character, lead the play puckishly along and make it often genuinely funny.

Other characters have their moments, but lack the direction or surety to carve out a niche for themselves as much more than a sounding board for the Maniac’s cavorting attentions. There were enough missed cues that I could have learned a good bit of Italian in the wasted time, which would’ve been handy as half the cast were, inexplicably, from the far side of the Alps. Maybe the police have an excellent foreign exchange programme that I don’t know about.

In the original play two endings are offered to the audience after the Maniac leaves the stage, and they’re free to pick their favourite. This production, like many, eschews this touch of surrealism but, at least here, not to its detriment. I doubt that any audience member, once the energy, hilarity and hypocrisy of the Maniac has left stage, would see any reason for the play to continue a moment longer.

3 stars

Accidental Death of an Anarchist runs until Saturday 2nd May at Corpus Playroom, 7pm. Buy your tickets here.