Daniel Raggett’s is the director of Accidental Death of An Anarchist which has transferred to the West End, following a critically acclaimed, sell out
season at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre.
Tom Basden’s razor sharp adaptation of Fo’s classic farce stars Daniel Rigby and Tony Gardner and is playing at Theatre Royal Haymarket, which is owned by Access Entertainment, for a strictly limited season until 9 September.
Given a bang up to the minute reworking by Tom Basden, the production takes laser targeted aim at the ineptitude of the police force, ruthlessly exposing the corruption and incompetence of the institution. Rigby’s central performance is a comic tour de force, creating an hilarious lightning rod around which the rest of the company spin in ever more ridiculous circles. Audiences are left breathless at the comedy and speed with which the play eviscerates the police force, judiciary and metropolitan elite.
Accidental Death of an Anarchist has transferred to the West End following successful runs at Sheffield Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith, how would you describe the play?
Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a farce in which a man, known as the Maniac, is arrested for impersonation and taken to a police station. At the police station, he learns of an inquiry happening into the death of a suspect in custody, which was likely perpetrated by the police. He then leads the police officers on a flight of fancy where he tricks them into revealing the cover-ups and collusion they’ve engaged in in order to get away with the murder. It’s very funny, with an incredible central performance from Daniel Rigby as the Maniac – but has at its core the exploration of a very important issue: deaths at the hands of the police.
What was it about Tom Basden’s reworking of the play that made you want to be involved?
Tom Basden’s reworking of the play genuinely made me laugh. I remember sitting down to read the script and it’s not very often that reading words on a page makes me laugh out loud, but it did. So that was the first thing that grabbed me. Then, the more I realised just how pertinent the issue of police corruption remains, and how uniquely it is tackled in Tom’s adaptation, I was excited by the challenge.
Do you think audiences are reacting differently to it in light of recent criticism of the Met?
I would hope so. But the idea of recent criticism of the Met is quite an interesting one. Tom started writing the play eight years ago and we were facing the same issues with the Met then as we are now – systemic racism, homophobia and misogyny. The Casey report, which was just published, is nothing new.
Over twenty years ago the Macpherson report was produced following the murder of Stephen Lawrence and it contained many similar accusations. So it’s yes, because these issues are back in the news cycle and therefore the play has felt more pertinent and reactions have been more visceral. But these issues are nothing new, they just come in and out of focus. We worked with a fantastic charity called INQUEST, whilst making the show and – along with their family campaigners, many of whom have been bereaved by police violence – they have campaigned tirelessly for years to break this cycle.
What did you learn from the previous runs that you’ve been able to incorporate into the West End run?
It’s great revisiting any show because it’s another opportunity to gauge what works and what doesn’t. You have the opportunity to enhance what works and fix what doesn’t. Coming into the West End has also been really interesting as some of our cast has changed and we’ve welcomed new company members. So it’s been a combination of both learning from past iterations of the show and also harnessing these new energies and dynamics in order to make the best version that it can be.
Daniel Rigby has been praised for his role of the Maniac, what have you enjoyed most about working with Daniel and the rest of the cast?
Daniel’s incredible as the Maniac and he deserves all the praise and accolades that should rightfully come his way. He gives it absolutely everything every single show. He’s very funny and incredibly agile – physically and verbally – but the thing that I enjoy most about him is his rigour. He does not stop working. The rest of the company are similarly talented and indefatigable too. They have this amazing ability to feed off each other’s energy and constantly push each other to be the best they can be – it’s like a chemical reaction.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Accidental Death of an Anarchist?
Do it! Especially if you want to see a funny play about a serious issue. You won’t regret it. And you’ll laugh a lot.