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Review: Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Theatre Royal Haymarket - satirical farce carries a lot of punches

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Tom Andrews, Tony Gardner and Daniel Rigby in Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Theatre Royal Haymarket. Photo: Helen Murray

If this Tom Basden-adapted, Daniel Raggett-directed production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist was a comic book, it would have Blam! Boof! Kapow! written on every page.

Verbal punches come thick and fast in what is a satirical farce aimed squarely at the police.

It is set in a police station where scandal is brewing after the death of an anarchist who was being questioned. Did he jump from the window, or was he pushed?

Enter Maniac (Daniel Rigby); in and out of mental institutions, he is a self-professed actor with a broad repertoire of characters he can (and will) play.

Believing him to be a judge, he encourages the police to re-enact the 'accident' for the benefit of an enquiry. Lies, dodgy procedures and sheer stupidity emerge.

The pace and energy of Rigby's delivery never let up as Basden's script pokes fun at the police, simultaneously exposing the boys in blue's flaws, prejudices and injustice.

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From left clockwise: Daniel Rigby, Ro Kumar, Tom Andrews, Tony Gardner in Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Theatre Royal Haymarket. Photo: Helen Murray

Basden has slipped in references to many well-known real examples just to drive home the point.

But it's not just the police in the crosshairs; the government, judges and even theatre also get a satirical poke.

Rigby breaks the fourth wall (and did a smart ad-lib when latecomers arrived); it's all very meta and adds to the enjoyment.

Once or twice there were uncomfortable laughs and disapproving noises when certain real events were referenced - there is a warning about unsettling themes.

This production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist has landed in the West End, having enjoyed sell-out runs in Sheffield and at the Lyric Hammersmith, and I can understand its popularity.

My only quibble is the relentless, ratatat pace which barely gives pause for breath, let alone time to digest the cleverness and layers in the script.

But overall, it is a very funny farce that has sharp teeth. I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Written by Dario Fo and Franca Rame, adapted by Tom Basden

Directed by Daniel Raggett

Starring Daniel Rigby

Running time 2 hours, including an interval

Booking until 9 September; for more information and to buy tickets, visit the Theatre Royal Haymarket website

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