Theatre Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Director Lesley Reed has a strong cast with a pedigree not often seen in community theatre

Presented by: The Stirling Players
Reviewed: 8 September, 2023

Dario Fo wrote Accidental Death of an Anarchist as a polemic work, focused in essences at the fascistic elements present in mid century Italian culture. Fo, a noted leftist campaigner, chose farce as his weapon of choice against institutional corruption and collusion between the forces of authoritarianism and their blackshirt brothers in arms – a noted “maniac” is the only truly sane person in the room, surrounded by the jackals of the violent state. Stirling Players brings this lofty ambition to the Stirling Community Theatre stage – whether they succeed is a matter for the viewer. 

Director Lesley Reed has a fairly strong cast with a pedigree not often seen in community theatre, utilising born talent for physical comedy and dialect well throughout. Reed’s decision to cast the play with entirely female characters also lends a certain ambiguously androgenous feel to much of the preceding; whilst many of the characters are farcially stereotyped, there are moments where you almost fall into forgetting whether it is a male, female, or bowie-esq androgynous character on the stage. This heightens the purposefully masculine buffoonery and blustering to quite the degree. In this blustering, however, are strong Italian accents, some more realistic and some more stereotypical, and with this comes some missed words and Australia slips. Given the show’s universal appeal, as referenced by the changes to dialogue in our finale, perhaps the accent could’ve been done away with for the sake of clarity. 

As act 1 progresses, the pace begin to slow though, as Reed directs the “Maniac” (played with an overflowing energy by Danii Zappia) to bounce from wall to wall, window to window, but the action around him stalls, the others seemingly waiting for their turn instead of actively participating. Maybe a tighter choreographic discipline or more precise choices through the sections without copious movement would’ve kept the flow of energy through these scenes. When there is movement, however, the fun is abundant. Props flying off stage, people flying down stairs, the fourth wall never really existing signals to the audience that its ok to laugh, despite the subject matter. 

The cast deserve mentions – Pizzani, played by Anita Zamberlan Canala, positively vibrates with angst, anger, and bile, with a point that could kill a man; his superior officer, the Superintendent, played by Georgia Stockham, is masterfully oafish – Stockham bringing an entirely new and brilliant physicality from her previous role with Stirling Players earlier this year. Bertozzo and the Constables, played by Olivia Jane Parker and Ashleigh Merriel, are a bumbling slapstick duo… or trio, constantly running from wing to wing with force. Kyla Booth as Feletti is a prying eye in the second act, and also has to contend with one of Fo’s more cogent points, put to her by the Maniac – is she a “reformer” with no real teeth, happy to allow this societal corruption to continue for the sake of her personal morals? As previously mentioned, Danii Zappia has a masterful grace and flow to the physical aspect she brings to the Maniac, the Commedia Harlequin from first entrance, to fourth wall breaking exit. 

The set is brilliant, perfectly encapsulating the Stirling space, with just enough space that 3 people don’t feel lonely, and 6 don’t feel cramped – a marvel on a restrictive stage. Lighting is simple, a wash for the majority of the show, which harms it somewhat – there are moments where a spot, or a flash of colour (deep red for our dueling dance perhaps) would’ve driven home the point or beat – Fo is an expert at verbally leading the audience to the point, in fact he just has his main character turn to the audience and say what he thinks. Taking this direct approach would have served the play, and the comedy. 

Stirling Players chose difficult material, both for the audience and for their creative teams – some choices pay off and some miss the mark, like a police officer slamming his stamp onto his own finger.

Reviewed by Daniel Barnett

Photo credit: Brian Donaghy

Venue: Stirling Community Theatre
Season: Until 23 September, 2023
Tickets: From $22.00

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