Review by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Talisman Theatre productions.
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.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist (2016):
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 repression.

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 dance insertions.

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.



2016 Talisman Theatre