CURATED BY Arundhati Nag
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
The Little Red, INOX Courtyard, Old GMC, Panjim
Dario Fo's 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist' (1970) responds to events unfolding in Italy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Generally, it looks at police corruption and suspicions regarding the government's collusion in this corruption. More specifically, it addresses the actual death of an anarchist who was being held in police custody following the bombing of a Milan bank that killed sixteen people and wounded about ninety. The police asserted that the anarchist's death was a suicide that the man threw himself from a fourth-floor window in despair at being found out for his crime. At the subsequent inquest, the presiding judge declared the death not a suicide but an accident. Most Italians believed that the death was the result of overly harsh interrogation techniques, if not a case of outright murder on the part of the interrogators.
Accidental Death of an Anarchist is mainly about police corruption, underscored by the play's focus on impersonation, infiltration, and double-talk. A fast-talking major character, the Maniac, infiltrates a police headquarters. Posing as an investigating judge, he tricks the policemen into contradicting themselves and admitting that they are part of a cover-up involving the death of an anarchist. In infiltrating police headquarters by misrepresenting himself (impersonation), the Maniac reminds audiences of how most political groups in Italy, particularly left-wing groups, were infiltrated by police agents who acted as informers. The Maniac's flip-flop of point of view and statement achieves much the same effect as his impersonations do. His confusing speechifying leads to the police contradicting themselves, so that the Maniac, in all his deceptions and distortions, is a precise reflection of what the play is designed to expose. The play recounts the political history during the 1970s. The anarchist is someone who disrupts or refutes society. It is based on the history of Salsedo, an Italian immigrant in New York who was arrested and then threw himself from a window on the fourteenth floor of the police headquarters. There was an inquest to discover if it was suicide or if he was assassinated. In the play, the anarchist is Pinelli who was arrested after a bomb exploded in Milan during the Calabrian procession ‘Lotta continua.’
At the end of the play, it is decided that Pinelli was not assassinated and the papers are sued. Fo’s impetus in writing the play is in order to show how the world can and must change. In Fo’s world, he knows that it is necessary to progress with the development and improvement of class struggles. Accidental Death of an Anarchist is one of Fo's most popular plays both within and outside Italy. It has played around the world over the years to millions of people, a popular choice of directors who want to point to corruption in their midst. Pluto Press (London) put out the first English version, translated by Gavin Richards. In 1992, Methuen published a fine set of volumes of Fo's plays, which included Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Morte accidentale di un anarchico (the Italian title) is the most internationally recognised play by Dario Fo, recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature. Considered a classic of twentieth-century theatre, it has been performed across the world in more than 40 countries, including Argentina, Chile, England, India, Romania, South Africa and South Korea.