When I first heard that the new and innovative company, Devious Theatre, in Kilkenny were doing a small season of two Dario Fo plays, I felt it was a retrograde step for such a young group, but the way they handled this seventies subversive play, Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, changed my mind and added further to my admiration of their attack and vitality.
A new venue, The Set, at Langton’s Hotel, Kilkenny, was their base this time, and what posh, if sterile, surroundings. At 7.40 the metal gates were closed but by asking at the bar, a young man opened up and I moved into a beer garden patio, lit up with red lights in the trimmed hedges. It was bitterly cold and eventually at 7.50 the venue opened. This was a state of the art cabaret venue with a mezzanine balcony, sloped seating and a bar on both levels. People near me were drinking cocktails and others pints. But it was cold and functional for a play. A small stage had limited possibilities, but the sound and lighting were first class.
The play is loosely set in Milan but it had lots of political reference points as you could expect from such work. Previously, in this police headquarters setting, a ,am, a self-confessed anarchist, fell from a fourth floor window and was found dead on the pavement. The police said it was suicide but an enquiry said it was accidental.
As the play opens an Inspector Bertozzo is interviewing important people and in a logical but crazy way, this Madman impersonates a Judge set to review the anarchist’s case and sets in train a madcap satirical night of craziness about power, lies and the abuse of power to establish obedience to the state. Along the way, aspects of recent Irish history are not just alluded to, but mentioned in a furious tour de force of biting satire and a comedic rant that dazzled with daring.
John Morton’s direction was measured to start with but then it raced away on an impressive merry-go-round of accusation, contradiction and cunning craziness.
While this is an ensemble production and each character supports the overall impact and success, I have to single out David Thompson as the Madman. I saw Tom Vaughan Lawlor in the Abbey as Arturo Ui and Thompson impressed me more, with a style of playing and a daring to fit a prosthetic leg while onstage and bring down the house with controlled, edge-of-your-seat, lunacy.
Using a white-faced make-up style, the other players were also impressive and they were Sean Hackett, John Morton, Alan Butler, Simone Kelly and Ken McGuire. Davy Holland did wonderful sound and Evan Kelly lit Edward Brennan’s functional set.
Next March, Devious Theatre will perform Fo’s Can’t Pay Won’t Pay.