The news over the last couple of days has been full of the findings of the Casey review on policing and what a disturbing and utterly damming picture the report has painted. Covering much of the same ground in equally coruscating but definitely more entertaining fashion is the Lyric Hammersmith production of Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, which takes as its main thrust police malpractice and subsequent cover ups. It's doubtful whether a production could be any more timely than this and for a 50+ year old piece it hits its targets with pinpoint accuracy amid the almost non-stop laughter which is its trademark throughout. Sadly it also highlights that essentially nothing has changed across that time span – certainly not in the UK.
Originally written by Italian farceurs/political activists Dario Fo and Franca Rame in 1970, this latest version has been retooled by Tom Basden to include a plethora of contemporary references which keeps this satire razor sharp. Basden's script is staggering for the amount of good jokes that it has per minute – there is barely time to draw breath before the next one comes along.
The central performance by Daniel Rigby is a breathless and breathtaking tour de force of both verbal and physical dexterity. He plays a character simply known as The Maniac who invades the police station and systematically dismantles the force's story of an anarchist's supposed suicide by posing as first a judge and then a forensics expert - albeit one with an eye patch, false hand and metal leg. Farcical situation piles on farcical situation but Rigby who is almost never offstage and is absolutely mesmerising holds everything together and gives a masterclass in comedy performing.
Tony Gardner as Superintendent Curry and Jordan Metcalfe as Detective Daisy are also compelling as they get tangled up in the webs of deceit and lies that they have themselves spun. Indeed the whole cast completed by Ruby Thomas, Howard Ward and Shane David-Joseph is superb and worthy of acclaim.
Director Daniel Raggett orchestrates proceedings which start at a frenetic pace, then goes up from there, and ensures plenty of invention to keeps things fresh throughout. The set by Anna Reid is also a thing of joy and contributes its own share of sight gags which emphasise the theatrical nature of what the audience are seeing – I particularly enjoyed the way the location was “moved” from the third to fourth floors.
If you can find a funnier or more immediately pertinent play than this in London at the moment do let me know. This is a major success for the Lyric and I'd strongly urge you to indulge yourself with this biting satire which proves that after half a century this Italian classic still has legs. It is definitely the best show I've seen so far this year: molto bene! in fact assolutamente eccellente!
It runs until 8 April.
Review: BottomLine Photo: Helen Murray