Theatre Review - Accidental Death of an Anarchist

It's thrilling to see a political farce in the West End that manages to lampoon and shed a much-needed light on police malpractice today.

Tom Basden has updated and anglicised Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s 1970 classic and this production couldn’t be more timely. Accidental Death of an Anarchist was written in response to the true story of a railway worker from Milan, falsely accused of a terrorist bombing, who was thrown from the window of a police station during his interrogation.

Basden’s adaptation is set in a contemporary police HQ. The officers are nervous about outside scrutiny following the death of an alleged terrorist under their watch who “fell” from the fourth-floor.

Did he jump or was he pushed?

The Maniac (Daniel Rigby) is brought in for questioning by Inspector Burton (Mark Hadfield). He claims he is an actor and uses the opportunity to prove police culpability in the recent fatality. Impersonating a judge, and later a forensics expert, The Maniac makes Superintendent Curry (Tony Gardner) and Detective Daisy (Tom Andrews) reconstruct their official account. He swiftly lays bare their blatant cover-up.

Basden draws out the farcical elements of Fo and Rame’s original and makes it relevant for a modern audience. It’s a damning attack on the Metropolitan Police, and exposes the corruption, incompetence and prejudice of the institution.

Initially, Rigby’s high-octane antics are distracting and one wonders how he can sustain such feverish energy over the course of two hours, but he does and it’s an exhilarating performance. Director Daniel Raggett ensures the pace never lets up.

Despite the many laughs, Accidental Death of an Anarchist ends on a deeply sobering note: Since 1990, there have been over 1,860 deaths in police custody in England and Wales.

Essential theatre.

Until September 9

Originally published by Westminster Extra