‘Accidental Death Of An Anarchist’ was written by Dario Fo, in 1970 and was first staged in 1979. The play is a provocative piece of drama, containing highly dangerous issues concerning the corruption of political authorities. It’s controversial issues and perfected physical movement captivates an audience through it’s comic theme as well as pungent serious elements. Dario Fo was born in 1926; he is the son of a railroad worker. Fo is a popular and controversial playwright as well as actor and director.
He is well known for leading the field in political satire internationally and in Europe for over 30 years. Fo’s main targets (so called inspired attacks) have been corruption in the Italian Legal System imperialism and capitalism . Fo began his career as a performer in the satirical cabaret-style revues (which probably influenced his continuous pleasure in writing plays with a main theme pungent political satire – like ‘Accidental Death Of An Anarchist’). In 1973, his wife Franca Rame, was kidnapped, tortured and raped by a group of fascists, to punish them for their political activism.
However this never drove the exceptional author to stop producing satirical plays, in fact it probably gave some form of motivation to continue the journey of ‘Accidental Death Of An Anarchist’ and its “biting political satire”. ‘Accidental Death Of An Anarchist’ reflects tradition from which it came – Italian street farce, commedia dell arte and undoubtedly political satire. An Italian tradition that follows through the play is La Commedia Dell Arte, this literally means ‘Artistic Comedy’. The commedia dell arte began in the second half of the 16th century in a period of time when theatre plays were cold and classic.
However this evolved over the years into a popular, entertaining, loud and colourful representations, which blossomed all over Italy, thus subverting the rules of theatre. Inspiring Fo, the sense of commedia dell arte speaks louder than words, With the powerful mix of various elements give strong impulses “to the initiative”: popular themes (corruption, satire, authority etc. ), plots full of climax, exaggerated physical movement, (such as acrobatic jumps, karate acts) made it a success. Emerging from various popular forms, performers created stock characters, such as Harlequin, Jongleur, Pantaloon and so on.
Each actor had speeches and bits of business known as Lazzi. More specifically, Lazzi is theatre trickery, e. g. jokes, optical illusions, physical movement and the like. In ‘Accidental Death Of An Anarchist’, the Maniac is the chief device of farce, satire and even slapstick. Fo created Maniac from the template of the ‘Jongleur’ (originating from classical traditions. ) This character would hide behind farcical, “mask of a fool and proceed to make scathing, satirical attacks on authority figures with the mask as his protection”.
The Maniac accomplishes this by changing into many different disguises. Fo gave the Maniac disguises to use him as a comedy device as well as reveal Fo’s political conviction. This play was written about what Italian people refer to as the ‘strategy tension’. This is a scheme carried out in the late 1960’s early 1970’s by right winged extremists in the military and secret services to “discredit the Italian Communist Party, by staging a number of leftist bombings”. The most notorious of these incidents occurred in Milan on 12th December 1969. A bomb exploded in an agricultural Bank.
It was a massacre with more than 16 dead. Instantly, the anarchists were blamed for the slaughter. One, Giovanni Pinelli, having been taken to the police headquarters, flew out of the window on the fourth floor. The police declared that Pinelli had committed suicide after having been convinced that the real culprits were no other than Valpreda, Garganelli and the other members of the Milan group. The subsequent cover-ups, inquests, re-cover ups and traits lasted for years. Ten years later at Cantazoro in Southern Italy the trial came to an end.
Three fascists were condemned to prison. Later it was discovered one of them was an agent for the Italian police. With further connections, Generals and Ministers were first condemned and then acquitted. It was only the criminal ‘labour force’ that went to prison. At the height of the events, Fo wrote this provocative piece, where instead a certified “psychotic” yet cunning Maniac runs amok the police station, disguising himself convincing the officers to re-open the case an exploit the ‘bent’ police force by playing on their inadequacies, their fear.
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