It’s been nearly 10 weeks of rehearsal on Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, far longer than we’ve done on any production previously. But then again, no previous productions have required such physicality from the performers and demanded such a high standard of performance. It’s our smallest ever cast and our biggest amount of both text and physicality, so yup, this one’s been a marathon.
The physicality in the play is derived from commedia dell’arte, the improvisational and highly physical style of comedy theatre from the 16th century, a style that Fo used throughout his career. It is a style rooted firmly in the grotesque, in clowning and in caricature. And like commedia dell’arte, Fo’s work is rooted in mockery, impersonation and satire. We’ve worked hard at bringing it out in this text and the actors have done some remarkable work in terms of creating extremely heightened characters, a lot of which are lampoonsing certain figures in Irish life and draws inspiration from a lot of stereotypes in this country. It’s resulted in a lot of crazy, sweaty rehearsals where we’re corpsing like bastards but it’s going to be what will drive this play. To bring this style out is all the more difficult when the text contains you in so small a space (basically an office on the fourth floor) and then to let the wild Madman loose in it, is to throw a bunch of fireworks into a petrol factory. Utter madness aptly enough.
Definitely exhausting stuff. But it’s been extremely rewarding so far. All the performers have risen to the challenge and like the best examples of ensemble work, they are very fluid and spark off each other perfectly. We’re at the stage of rehearsals where the elements are in place but you can still see the joins. We’re not entirely there yet but we’re getting there.
This week is going to be an intense one. We’re working on refining a lot of the technical elements and making sure everything tightens up and hopefully our intentions will emerge crystal clear. One of our initial starting points with this play was old comedies. The silent movies of the 20’s and comedies of the 30’s are a big inspiration for us. As the forefathers of film comedy, they took that commedia style of theatre and put it before a camera. And we’re taking it back through them and putting it back on the stage. At least that’s our intention anyway. We’re trying to make it look like a silent comedy on stage and channel Chaplin, Keaton and the Marx Brothers. If we can get even a fraction of that skill level, then I’m going to be a very happy camper!
The masters we are serving here are Dario Fo and of course, the audience. It’s been played to please and like the best of Fo’s work, we hope it will keep the audience engaged, both by entertaining them but also illuminating the injustices in their countries, in their society, in their lives. Despite the heightened comedic style, this is a very political piece of theatre and we really want people to hear the anger, disenchantment and frustration that we’ve channeled into the play.
And if they don’t hear it? Well, we hope that’s because they’ve been laughing too hard.
Accidental Death Of An Anarchist opens Wednesday December 2nd and runs until Sunday December 6th. Tickets can be bought from the Set Theatre box office, Rollercoaster Records, Kieran Street, Kilkenny and by credit card here on his very website.