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Accidental Death of an Anarchist The Caxton Theatre Grimsby 19 April 2022

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo

The Caxton Players directed by John Ferguson

The Caxton Theatre, Grimsby

23 - 30 April 2022

They say the secret to good comedy is that it is rooted in truth. This seminal, Italian farce by Dario Fo, is indeed rooted in truth. It takes as its starting point a real-life situation which saw a death in police custody and those responsible evading justice. Fo decides to allow the audience the benefit of the magic “What if…?” scenario. In other words, what if someone forced the police to reopen the case in pursuit of the truth. An unlikely scenario for a comedy, let alone a fast-paced farce. Yet that is what he achieved, an internationally successful farce that still has much to say about the power of privilege in the modern world, of being the ones responsible for writing or re-writing (several times over) the ‘truth’.

John Ferguson is clearly a fan of the piece and understands its comedic and satirical power. It is the second time he has brought the play to life, having previously done so as a bar production, with limited opportunity to build and employ a solid set and full technical support in sound and lighting. This time, he revels in the task and makes the most of it creating a madcap comedy that at times resembles Scooby Doo as characters fly in and out of doors in classic chase scenes. He understands the need for pace and ensures his cast do too. They fly through the script at a rapid pace delivering quips faster than the audience will consider possible at times.

Initially, audiences may feel a little confused by what they are presented with but when they realise what they are seeing, they will buy into the artifice and realise that many of the nods and winks are strictly rehearsed and for their benefit. The ensemble will guide them on a rollercoaster journey of mirth and merriment and keep things ticking over beautifully, much like the bomb present during Act Two…

The cast are excellent, and all understand the brief they have been given by Ferguson. They are free to enjoy themselves as long as they maintain the pace and humour and remain true to its style and conventions throughout. Some may say there is “overacting” and others may call it “hyper-realism” to aid the delivery of an bizarre and occasionally confusing narrative. The script is incredibly word-y and many concepts are discussed and dismissed in rapid succession. But that is the point. The piece calls upon the audience to suspend their beliefs from the outset in order to embrace the silliness.

The principal character is The Maniac played by newcomer to the Caxton Theatre, William Wiggington. It is an incredibly brave and accomplished performance. He has masses of text to deliver and has to do so whilst maintaining his mania. Wiggington achieves this amazingly well. It is incredible to see from a performer in his first performance on stage ever. The confidence and charisma he brings to the performance belies his inexperience and you could be forgiven for assuming he has been doing so for many years. He sustains his madcap performance from start to end and and works up quite a sweat as he does so. He is definitely one to watch for the future.

Another newcomer to the Caxton stage is Jacob March-Jones playing Bertozzo. This is another excellent performance that combines dramatic ability with comic flair and superb timing. March-Jones is an accomplished performer but has had a seventeen-year absence from the stage and his comeback, in a play he had studied at college, shows that he remains a natural, gifted and powerful performer. His physical comedy and pratfalls are wonderful, and March-Jones will next be seen in the forthcoming production of Nell Gwynn later in the year. He is a welcome addition to the ranks of performers within the Caxton Players.

He will be directed in Nell Gwynn by Gemma Dodds who also appears in this play as the two constables one with a moustache and one without. Such range! Dodds’ deadpan delivery and presence is perfect for this play and provides an excellent foil to ‘their’ superiors in the police. It is quite a contrast from her recent appearance as Sybil in Noel Coward’s Private Lives at the Caxton Theatre.

Josh Wainwright returns to the Caxton stage as Pissani, having last been seen in Ferguson’s production of Boudicca. Here, he shows a completely different side as the foolish police inspector often sending his previous “hard man” image up. He delivers a deft comic performance including (deliberately) terrible Dad-style gags, which the audience should feel free to groan at or boo loudly.

Lucy Tooze brings astonishing energy and manic, almost psychotic power to the role of the Superintendent. She enters brandishing a spigot from a staircase, eyes wide and crazed and she bullies her underlings and suspects mercilessly. Her last appearance in A Bolt From The Blue, which we reviewed earlier this year suggested Tooze should be on stage more often and this performance definitely supports that view. Her presence and command of the stage is wonderful. Her brusque delivery and bombastic performance will no doubt have the audience hating her but laughing at her pomposity.

Rounding out the cast as the glamorous reporter Feletti, is Jessica Howden who appeared alongside Gemma Dodds as Boudicca’s daughters previously for the Caxtons and has made many appearances locally with Class Act. It is Feletti’s job to stir things up and to really cause the play to rush towards its inevitable conclusion, helping to draw threads together whilst tantalising poor Pissani with her womaly guile. Her charismatic, provocative performance adds something extra to this terrific cast, providing contrast and some balance amidst all the surreal, manic action. Howden is confident and self-assured and a consummate performer.

The ensemble casts caution to the wind, breaking the fourth wall on numerous occasions, even speaking directly to Stage Manager Carol Ladson who appears as the perennial, put-upon workhorse that so often goes unappreciated by many seeing productions at the theatre but are absolutely gold dust for the performers who enjoy the glory and the limelight.

This production will run for a week from Saturday 23rd (no performance on Sunday 24th) and tickets are available both online or on the door.

Andy Evans

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