ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST written by Dario Fo (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank.
ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST written by Dario Fo (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House). To February 21. $29.50-$89. 416-866-8666. See Continuing. Rating: NNNN
Director Ravi Jain‘s update of Italian playwright Dario Fo‘s searing 1970 political farce about police brutality and corruption sets the action in present-day Toronto, offering compelling commentary on the troubling G-20 legacy, the Sammy Yatim shooting and recent protests south of the border.
The zany roller-coaster-ride plot follows a charismatic master imposter (Kawa Ada) who runs amok at a police station during an internal investigation into the suspicious suicide while in custody of an anarchist bomb-plot suspect. Impersonating a number of authority figures, this self-professed madman fools a bungling group of inspectors (Ins Choi, Oliver Dennis), constables (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Williston) and a very Bill Blairesque chief (Rick Roberts) into rehashing and revising their testimony regarding the death, with hilarious and revealing results.
The shift of setting from 70s Italy isn’t just superficial Jain’s adaptation provides a constant flow of amusing T.O. references and in-jokes – everything from U of T to Big Ears Teddy to crack videos – that pile up at about two a minute. These far outweigh the few anachronisms: the absence of social media (which would probably have foiled the imposter’s act early on) and the police’s obsession with an anarchist menace.
Ada’s tour-de-force performance is a highlight of the show. At first appearing to be a hapless interviewee under suspicion, his character transitions into a diabolical genius and master manipulator, energetically brimming with schemes and disguises. Watching him operate – swinging wildly from plan to plan while fooling the cops into exposing their blatantly self-serving cover-up – is great fun. It’s a cathartic revenge fantasy, for sure, for anyone who’s ever had a frustrating run-in with the law, but also a rousing call for civic engagement and accountability.
Jain nails the script’s screwball slapstick moments with help from fight choreographer Simon Fon, making great use of the set’s massive window (from which the anarchist is said to have plummeted). Set designer Lorenzo Savoini‘s clever projection of the Toronto skyline, visible through the window, pans up and down as the characters ride the elevator: a nice touch.
This adaptation stays true to Fo’s revolutionary ethos, mixing humour with outrage, inspiring laughter and critical reflection.