Accidental Death of an Anarchist

The Marx Brothers Meet Italian Politics!

The headlines in the Daily News read: "Anarchist howlingly funny: Rapid-fire satire highlight of community theatre season." Elissa Bernard writing in the Chronicle-Herald called it a "tight, energetic ... and brilliant production" and added "(the cast) take the comedy very seriously and pull it off beautifully." The Coast's Grame Gunn said its was "the funniest (play) Halifax has seen in ... a long time."

After it's stunning debut this spring at the Theatre Arts Guild to great acclaim and sell-out houses, Accidental Death of An Anarchist returns -- with a vengence -- to the Atlantic Fringe Festival!

Director, Christopher Majka, says: "After the enthusiatic and successful reception the play received we decided it would be worth taking the production further. The previous run of the play coincided with the Oklahoma City bombing, graphically illustrating that the problemswhich Fo is addressing in the play are actue and relevant today. The fringe seemed an ideal venue since we felt the sharp poltical content and the hilarious nature of the show would make it a natural for fringe audiences. Happily the Fringe Festival agreed."

The story of Accidental Death of an Anarchist uses as a springboard the tragic events surrounding the arrest of anarchist railway man Giuseppi Pinelli. On December 12, 1969 a bomb went off in the Agricultural Bank in Milan killing 17 people and wounding 100. Immediately after the bombing fascists of the Italian Social Movement (MSI) distributed leaflets denouncing the 'red terror' and police in Milan went into action, sweeping up a number of socialist, communist and anarchist activists in the city. One of these was Pinelli, well known as a pacifist opposed to individual acts of violence. After four days of interrogation in police headquarters Pinelli 'fell' out of a fourth floor and died. Police claimed that the death was an 'accident'.

These events sent a shock wave throughout Italy. There were demonstrations, articles in the press, inquires, etc. In 1971, the policemen in charge of the investigation, Calabresi, was charged with manslaughter. Calabresi, in turn, launched a lawsuit against Lotta Continua, the newspaper who had exposed many of the inconstancies in the police version of events. These came to an end in May on 1972 when Calabresi was assassinated in front of his house by 'unknown assailants.' Ten years later in Catanzaro, three fascists were convicted of the Milan bombings. One of them, Giannettini turned out to be a paid informer for the Italian police.

Dario Fo, one of Italy's best known playwrights used these events as inspiration for this controversial play. Fo, working in Milan with the Capannone of Via Colletta, wrote the play in 1970 and it toured Italy playing to audiences totaling more than a million. It caused a sensation itself, creating a storm of controversy in the press, bomb threats to the theatres, etc. It has subsequently been translated into a number of languages and has been produced throughout Europe and in the United States.

The play, while dealing with weighty political issues, is nevertheless an extremely funny one rooted in Italian traditions of farce and of commedia del'arte. Its probing of issues of fascism, totalitarianism and the threats of a police state transcend the particulars of the events which inspired it. Fo has penetrating insights into the nature of power in contemporary society and in this play he hilariously exposes some of its contradictions.

Kudos to the original cast -- John Cleland, Rick Collins, Paul Emile d'Entremont, Drew MacDonald, Andy Smith and Helen Vaughan -- and director by Christopher Majka.