Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist"

Posted by M ws On Tuesday, September 6, 2011 2 comments
It was through a friend that I first heard of Dario Fo and "The Accidental Death of An Anarchist". According to Wikipedia, Dario Fo (born March 24, 1926) is an Italian satirist, playwright, theater director, actor and composer. His dramatic work employs comedic methods of the ancient Italian commedia dell'arte, a theatrical style popular with the working classes. He currently owns and operates a theatre company with his wife, actress Franca Rame. He was awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature, with the committee highlighting him as a writer "who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden".

Fo's works are characterised by criticisms of — among others — organized crime, political corruption, political murders, Catholic policy on abortion and conflict in the Middle East. His plays often depend on improvisation, commedia dell'arte style. His plays — especially Mistero Buffo — have been translated to 30 languages and when they are performed outside Italy, they are often modified to reflect local political and other issues. Fo encourages directors and translators to modify his plays as they see fit, as he finds this in accordance to the commedia dell'arte tradition of on-stage improvisation. Read more here.

If you have never read Accidental Death of An Anarchist by Dario Fo, you can download a free ebook AT THIS LINK. You can also watch the YouTube version of the play HERE.

When you read the book or the synopsis, you would probably be so shocked that it reminds you of a certain unexpected tragic death in Malaysia!

Here's something on the play taken from HERE:

Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist (1970) responds to events unfolding in Italy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Generally, it looks at police corruption and suspicions regarding the government's collusion in this corruption. 

More specifically, it addresses the actual death of an anarchist who was being held in police custody following the bombing of a Milan bank that killed sixteen people and wounded about ninety. The police asserted that the anarchist's death was a suicide, that the man threw himself from a fourth-floor window in despair at being found out for his crime.  

At the subsequent inquest, the presiding judge declared the death not a suicide but an accident. 

Most Italians believed that the death was the result of overly harsh interrogation techniques, if not a case of outright murder on the part of the interrogators.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist is mainly about police corruption, underscored by the play's focus on impersonation, infiltration, and double-talk. 

A fast-talking major character, the Maniac, infiltrates a police headquarters. Posing as an investigating judge, he tricks the policemen into contradicting themselves and admitting that they are part of a cover-up involving the death of an anarchist. 

In infiltrating police headquarters by misrepresenting himself (impersonation), the Maniac reminds audiences of how most political groups in Italy, particularly left-wing groups, were infiltrated by police agents who acted as informers. The Maniac's flip-flop of point of view and statement achieves much the same effect as his impersonations do. His confusing speechifying leads to the police contradicting themselves, so that the Maniac, in all of his deceptions and distortions, is a precise reflection of what the play is designed to expose.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist is one of Fo's most popular plays both within and outside Italy. It has played around the world over the years to millions of people, a popular choice of directors who want to point to corruption in their midst. Pluto Press (London) put out the first English version, translated by Gavin Richards. In 1992, Methuen published a fine set of volumes of Fo's plays, which included Accidental Death of an Anarchist.
This play makes us think more deeply about reform vs revolution. Those who wish to change society may think that instituting reforms is the way to go about it. On one hand, we have reformers who have faith in existing structures. This group would be the ones who believe that these structures need only be perfected—or corrupt elements within them be rooted out—for desired changes to come about. Sounds idealistic? Not so easy, some may say.

Om the other hand, the book reminds us that some who wish to change society for the better  believe in a revolution as the only means via a radical restructuring of society and its institutions. The play shows us that revolutionaries tend to think that reforms are mere bandages on never-healing sores. Having said that, reforms would be leading to temporary alleviation of a persistent problem, such as poverty, but never eliminating it. Revolutionaries believe in dismantling existing structures to be replaced by entirely new ones.

This site gives insightful essays on the themes and characters of the story. Definitely, you have to read Dario Fo's Accidental Death of An Anarchist and watch the movie at the same time via YouTube. Happy reading!

2 comments to Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist"

  1. says:

    Donplaypuks® Perhaps now you will appreciate the source of my inspiration for my blo post of 08/04/2009 "AN ACCIDENTAL INQUIRY INTO THE ACCIDENTAL SUICIDE DEATH OF A.COOGIE, AN ANARCHIST!"

    at http://donplaypuks.blogspot.com/2009/04/accidental-inquiry-into-accidental_08.html

    Keep up the good work.

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human Race

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Thanks, DOO! Yes, I remember that post. At that time, I did not know @ Dario Fo and now that I do, I appreciate your post even more. Take care and thanks for your warm encouragement.

    Keep up the great writing on your side too! Take care and hope to see you again someday!


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