Powell shows his skills as cast nails taxing Fo play

Accidental Death of an Anarchist
Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Dario Fo, directed by Andrew Kaye

At the Meteor Theatre

Reviewed by Angela Cuming

Something very special is happening in Hamilton's theatre scene.

If ever there was a clear sign that this town is filled with wonderful and creative people who could hold their own against the world's best, the Fullhouse Theatre's production of The Accidental Death of an Anarchist is it.

Written by Italian satirist and Nobel Laureate Dario Fo, the play is based on the true Italian story of an anarchist who fell from the window of a police building after interrogation in 1969.

The play asks all the important questions about the circumstances surrounding an anarchist's accidental fall from a police building window.

Bertozzo (David Bower-Mason) and his fellow police - the constables (both roles played by Antony-Paul Aiono) and their superintendent (Julia Watkins) - are obliged to manufacture an explanation for the unusual event.

Enter the mysterious and mischievous Maniac, a man who is no stranger to police shackles and possesses an almost unnerving knowledge of the law.

A play that delves into the depths of corruption and pokes fun at bureaucracy gone mad seems that it would be a challenge for even the most world-renowned theatre companies, but Fullhouse Theatre nails it.

It seems almost unfair to cast Matthew Charles Powell in the pivotal role of the Maniac. He steals every scene he's in, and runs away with pretty much the whole show while he's at it.

Fo based much of his play on original police transcripts and then inserted the character of the Maniac into these transcripts as a catalyst for teasing out the truth of what really happened.

Disguised as a judge, he reopens the case and the audience learns more about the Anarchist's fall and the interrogation that led up to it.

Powell is full of energy, with beautifully timed slapstick comedy throughout, and the pace and detail of the pages of dialogue he memorised is a testament to his skills as an actor.

He is paired perfectly with the play's director, Andrew Kaye, who is cast as the bumbling but wily Inspector Pissani.

All actors wear full face makeup, and watching Kaye, as white as a ghost and wearing a garish purple suit, was rather unsettling.

Bower-Mason brings a level of loathing and then pity to his character, and Aino's two roles, although of little words, provide some of the most side-splitting moments in the play.

Watkins, as the male superintendent, is quite brilliant. Her classical training in England - she is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - shines through in what is a difficult role for a woman to play as a man.

Rounding out the cast is Fullhouse Productions' newcomer Alice Kennedy as the intrepid news hound Feletti, who is determined to get to the bottom of what really happened.

I hope Hamilton gets to see a lot more of this actress, who held her own against Powell in some of the play's final, pivotal scenes.

In a nice touch, the actors ad-libbed a few of their lines to have subtle and not-so-subtle digs at the current state of New Zealand politics and other hot-button issues such as the Rena disaster. It is a very, very clever and welcome addition to the script.

A word of warning, though. This play is so funny that you will, at times, have trouble hearing the actors on stage over the howls of laughter.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist is on at the Meteor Theatre until November 3.