Theatre Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist


Poster for Accidental Death of an Anarchist. A white man in a suit falls through the air grinning at us all.This play is exhausting. It is an absolutely relentless comedy. I don't mean a few scattered laughs, I mean a full-on assault on your comedy nerves. It starts as a high-energy farce and escalates and escalates and escalates until you can't trust your senses any more.

If you're unfamiliar with the plot - as I was - it's a remake of a 1970s piece of agit-prop theatre in which the death of a suspect in police custody is investigated. The titular Anarchist died after falling from a 4th floor window. But did he jump or was he pushed? What are the limits of police responsibility? Can you trust what anyone says? Is the cover-up worse than the crime? Doesn't sound like a laugh-a-minute show, does it? And yet...

Every line contains a laugh. The absurdity of trusting the police with anything is mercilessly skewered. As are we - the audience - for treating abuse of power as entertainment. It was amazing to see how a powerful script and top class actors can flip an audience from screaming with laughter to gasping in horror within a scene.

It is hard to describe just how maniacal Daniel Rigby is. The whole show is built around his incredible talents - to the point where it almost feels like the other actors are somewhere between supporting cast and props. He is an absolute lynchpin with complete mastery of physicality and total command of his audience - and he deserves to win every award going. As do the Director and Stage Designer.

Sadly, at times the play does descend into MEN SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER which is a little grating. Don't worry, they let a woman have a few lines in the second act. But they mostly SHOUT AT HER AS WELL. The play also tries to inject as much topicality as it can - with mentions of recent scandals in the world of police and politics. But, at times, it feels a little like a Wikipedia article reeling off facts and figure. The pace is so furious that the righteous fury never has a chance to build.

As is par for the West End, the theatre had plenty of empty seats. Theatres need to realise that £75 a seat just doesn't represent great value for money. Not in a cramped row with no leg room, a long wait for the toilets, and a £4 programme consisting of little more than an IMDb précis of the talent. There's also nothing in the theatre to build anticipation for the show or to transform a visit into an experience.

If you can grab one of the cheap ticket deals, this is 100% worth it. Easily the most shocking set of laughs I've had. As with all satire, I'm never sure if it will act as a flashpoint for action or simply make people think they're doing something just by watching.

Either way, you should see this show, and then visit inquest.org.uk/

Verdict

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