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Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist

What’s queerer than anarchism? I’d say probably a few things, like gay sex or transing your gender, but this production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist (the first play of the new semester! Insert party poppers or something) offers a compelling defence of anarchism’s place on the queerness tier list, with the help of some pink fluffy handcuffs and a vigorously anti-police message.

The star of the show is unquestionably Buster van der Geest’s slightly camp (Daddy?) Maniac, almost running physical rings around the largely stationary and befuddled policemen as he runs metaphorical rings around them while saying what feels like 95% of all the lines in the script. But it is impossible to get bored of him, thanks to Tatiana Kneale’s direction keeping him constantly in motion as well as to his own acting, as he leaps and runs all over the stage, proselytises to the audience, has conversations with himself, and jumps while growling like a dog, in several distinct absurd characters. The Maniac transforms into many parts throughout the play, each with their own ways of moving and ridiculous voices, and all of them work and are hilarious – thanks also to the costumes from Thea White, each hurriedly put on but characterful and effective. He swaps between flamboyant and pedantic about grammar, authoritative and vaguely posh, and pious and impressively high-pitched, and somehow always makes the other characters look like the weird idiots.

These other characters act mostly as foils to the Maniac’s hyperactive insanity, each with their own distinct personalities. Heather Tiernan’s Bertozzo takes zero shit, just wants to know what the fuck is going on, and responds to the Maniac with increasing fury and pure violence (slay honestly). Then there are the three stooges, who bow down instantly to the Maniac’s pretended authority: Callum Wardman-Browne’s Superintendent, prideful and furious but also very submissive and earnest and thankful when the Maniac (Daddy?) offers to do some corruption with him; Amy Rodger’s trying-to-be-very-professional Sports Jacket, whose name is revealed to be the extremely appropriate di Fenestra (I haven’t explained it but the play is about a guy falling out of a window by absolute definite total accident), and Emily Speed’s feckless but well-meaning Constable. These three spend most of their time around one desk looking haplessly back and forth in contrast to the Maniac bouncing all over the place, with the Superintendent impatient but faithful, Sports Jacket awkward and worried, and the Constable completely clueless in his astonishingly thick glasses but breaking into broad smiles whenever he thinks he’s helped. It feels like there’s always something interesting going on wherever you look on stage. Then the Maniac starts singing, the Superintendent pulls out his harmonica, and they all happily march off together.

The journalist Feletti, played by Lila Patterson, enters the play with much suspicious glancing and note-taking in the second half. As a representative of the liberal press, he questions the police intensely but is also complicit in creating a stagnant culture of constant manufactured outrage that prevents the questioning of deeper societal issues and leads to no meaningful progress – which feels remarkably current considering this play is originally from 1970. The increasingly desperate police, and the Maniac, now wearing an eyepatch and a truly unhinged Scottish accent, create new and unprecedented levels of chaos and show off some things which were probably not in the original but fit in fairly easily, such as references to the past several governments of corrupt Tories and perhaps the greatest of all the props in Isla Heald and Zoe Small’s extremely excellent (pink fluffy handcuffs) set – a framed photo of Boris Johnson getting stuck on a zipline while waving around Union Jacks.

Overall very good play from everyone involved well done. I reckon it raises anarchism at least up to B tier, just in front of Taylor Swift.


other erin (she/her)

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