What does Miss Piggy, the Chattanooga Choo Choo and a wooden leg have in common?
Not much, but in this play that is sort of the point. And Wick Theatre Company made the most of their creative liberty in this production.
On the surface, Accidental Death of an Anarchist seems to be about just that – the real-life death of a man who fell from a fourth-story window at police headquarters in Milan in 1969.
But the fictional version spun by playwright Dario Fo uses it as a platform to poke fun at police corruption by turning authority on its head.
The inmates have the keys to the asylum – or rather one inmate, affectionately known as the Maniac, who masquerades as a high court judge that is investigating whether police were to blame for the anarchist’s death.
The whole play is a vehicle for this character, and it needs an actor with razor-sharp timing to prevent it getting bogged down in political jargon.
And that is what we got with leading man Phil Brown.
It was not a perfect performance, with a few stumbles over the words – but it was still a very impressive success rate given the speed and clarity of his delivery, the wordiness of the lines and the fact that he spoke at least two-thirds of the dialogue.
The ethos of ‘no small parts, only small actors’ is particularly relevant with this play but the rest of the cast stood tall.
The hard-nosed journalist, the fascist police boss, the anxious inspector and the bumbling policeman – all were given distinct personalities.
The loose structure of the play, in which the cast come out of character to discuss the production, was well-used by the company, with modern references worked into the piece – hence the Maniac’s impersonation of Kermit the Frog’s ex-wife.
But the added satirical commentary about the state of Britain today tipped from satire into rant territory.
The physicality of the play was well-handled, and the climax, which asks the audience to choose the ending they prefer, was thought provoking.
It also showed off a surprise element of the set, which made for a dramatic finale.
It is not an easy show to watch – but go with the flow and it should have you laughing like a madman.
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