Monday, April 9, 2012

Death of an Anarchist Response

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Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Comedic plays are able to make some loud messages while avoiding being too serious. In fact, comedic plays are said to have made the loudest messages out of all genres in theatre. One fine example of a play like this is Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Written by Dario Fo, this comedic farce takes pokes at the governmental system and how police deal with criminals. It was originally performed on December 5th, 170, but it’s been rewritten twice since then so the dialogue would have more to do with the politics in the time in which the play is performed.

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The whole play revolves around the Fool, who is the main character. He is a deceptively smart psychopath that can pretend to be of any occupation. The play takes place in a Roman police station during the ‘70’s. When we first meet the Fool, he’s being interrogated by Inspector Bertozzo. During this part of the play, we learn about the Fool’s background. After the Bertozzo leaves, the Fool assumes the identity of a judge that’s supposed to be helping the Captain and Chief of the station deal with a report on how an anarchist jumped out of the fourth floor window. During their discussion, a reporter comes in to interview the Captain and Chief on what happened to the anarchist that jumped out of the window. The Fool then changes his occupational identity again so any misleading information can be discredited. During the interview the report of what happened to that anarchist gets fumbled around more than it already is, and then Bertozzo enters in the middle of the interview. For the rest of the interview, the Fool, Chief, and Captain are trying to keep Bertozzo from exposing the Fool’s true identity during this interview. By the end of the interview, Bertozzo exposes the Fool and then the Captain and Chief feel dumbfounded and the Fool jumps out the window like a true anarchist.

The intention of Fo in writing this play was to portray how the government keeps its power, and how the police deals with criminals (mainly anarchists). Using long monologues, the Fool lets out how bizarre the police solve investigations, and how the government asserts its power. These monologues also portray the two main themes of the play which are the police also act as criminals; and the government uses extreme methods to instill its power. The irony in this is that the Fool puts these two themes across, yet is named the ‘Fool.’

The way it is portrayed that police act as criminals is showed throughout the first half of the play. In this first half, the police are able to do (nearly) whatever they want to a criminal while interrogating him/her, yet the criminal can’t retaliate without getting into more trouble. The police also recreate their story for the third time to back up why the anarchist jumped out the window, but do it in a way that makes the police look more humane and make it look like he jumped as part of an anarchist ritual. The Fool also points out how the anarchist obviously jumped because of a ‘raptus’, which is a depressive and hopeless mood that had come about him. The Fool explains that this ‘raptus’ came about the raptus when the interrogators lied to the anarchist telling him that his alibi was proved to be a lie, that his two best friends turned themselves in for other terrorist crimes, and that there was proof that he was connected to a train bombing when in reality they had no proof of any of this information. They also reasserted in him that their anarchist revolution had no hope of surviving and that his future was pretty much ruined. The police said that these occasional methods were harmless, but the Fool points out that they constantly bombarded him with these lies, thus putting the ‘raptus’ into him which made him jump.

The other theme of the book is how the government uses extreme methods to instill its power. This theme isn’t tied into the plot of the play, but it is present at several points in discussions in the play. The Fool also describes this theme to us. He states that a strong government uses scandal to keep support, and secretly creates scandals to deal with even when there aren’t any real ones so that the government can keep its strong image and support. He mentions that scandal is the way of preventing the public’s political consciousness, so that the government can do what it wants and keep all of its power. He also talks about how highly-positioned leaders can say anything and contradict themselves in speech, yet they can retract what they said later which leads to the public loving them even more.

If I were to direct this play, I would make sure to cast someone who has a good range of voice and movement as the Fool. The Fool needs to switch voices a lot to match his occupations and to match his craziness. I would like him to be very flexible so his movements can match up with his voice to make him an eccentric character which is what the role demands. I would cast middle aged men for the Sergeant, the Captain and the Inspector, because they all act as though they’ve had plenty of experience in the field already. For the most part, their roles aren’t wacky and out of it like the Fool’s role, so I wouldn’t expect them to have big characters. I would have an man in his 50’s play the chief, because it takes many years of experience to become a police chief. For this role, the only special demands for it are a commanding voice, because he does have and reestablish his authority over others. For the Officer, I’d use a younger man in his late 0’s, because he’s at the bottom of the chain in terms of authority, and does many small tasks which don’t require much experience to do. For the Reporter, I would cast a woman in her 0’s with very proper enunciation and posture since she is a well-known, prestigious reporter.

For the set, I would have a typical office set with one main table, several chairs, a coat rack, and a few filing cabinets. The window in the room would be at upstage right, with the table being a little bit right of stage center. The door would be at stage left, with several filing cabinets against the wall on upstage left and a desk at downstage left. The coat rack would be slightly upstage from the door. I would have the room like this because most of the action takes place at the table and next to it, and the window is an important part of the play so it has to be at stage right. The levels would be at highest around all of stage right, and along all of upstage. Stage center would be one step lower, with the desk at stage left being at the same height as stage right since the reporter has a big role and uses the desk while on stage.

Since almost this entire play takes in one room, I would have the actors get up and move around frequently. This play relies on the dialogue to get its points across, so that movement is necessary to keep the audience’s attention. I would use a few different levels because at almost every point in the play someone is arguing with someone else, so the levels could emphasize who is in control or when and how control shifts to the other side.

The effect that I would like this play to have on today’s audience is not one as strong as the play probably intended to have when it was first performed. There isn’t too much turbulence or scandal revolving around our government today (except for the Iraq crisis), and anarchists don’t have a large effect on our country. Our police aren’t known to be so harsh on criminals as they are in this play, and don’t cover things up so extremely either, so I would more or less like this play to be more of a historical comedy than a farcical comedy due to the current state of our nation.

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