Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
Death of an Anarchist
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The
Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content
of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.
Madness sweeps across the Talisman stage. Cartoon-like
characters in colourful costumes indulge in frantic farce
to deliver a potent political message.
This is theatre of the absurd, rich in challenge, hugely demanding
to both audience and performers and immensely divisive. You
will love it or loathe it.
The Talisman company pull out the stops with a degree of commitment
which is little short of amazing. Director Amanda Dodd has
shaped a breathless roller-coaster of a show in which the
pace seldom lets up. The players become almost computer-like
animated figures as they act out the manic events of writer
Dario Fo's savage Italian satire on political corruption and
Based on actual events surrounding a suspect's death at a
police station, it ridicules the relevant figures of authority
through the madcap antics of a maniac who play-acts their
various roles. This provides one of theatre's most formidable
and physical characters, and John Francis grandstands the
part with relentless energy, leaping on chairs, galloping
across the stage, savouring every nuance of comedic opportunity.
Against a crisp and bright set designed by Richard Poynter,
the actors relish their opportunities to go big and are generally
faultless in their efforts, under the director's clearly tight
control. Nick Doughlin, in particular, strikes some glorious
moments of movement and mime while, musically, there are delightful
The play itself is so designed to allow for certain political
updating, and this is where the production becomes unhinged.
One or two local references come across as pure pantomime
and a huge modern political diatribe which has been woven
in at the closing stages of the piece is not only tedious
but has all the impact of an over-enthusiastic undergrad blog.
It nearly derails the show.
Fortunately, the sheer quality and enthusiasm of the rest
of the performance ensures that this remains a remarkable
achievement by local theatre.