Many Soulpepper productions have left me stunned in the past, but none of them have ever caught me off guard as much as this one did. After having watched Soulpepper’s production of Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, directed by Ravi Jain, I left the theatre feeling as though I had just watched something worth watching. Though the show was in no way a major step towards innovation, it was definitely unique and memorable in the strongest sense of the words.
The set was a bleak and disheveled looking office space -- a setting that seemed to give off the impression of the mind of a madman. With papers lying in every corner of the office, including the crevices that were not taken up by file cabinets, I’d say that the set was very much a reflection of the play’s very own psychotic puppet master known simply as The Madman (played by Kawa Ada).
As the lights in the house slowly faded out and the lights on stage came up, a cast of three characters silently appeared on stage, keeping the audience in quiet anticipation for the chaos to come.
Much of the dialogue that was spoken was swift and flowed very well with the physical comedy in the show. In addition to this, it almost seemed as though this contemporary take on Commedia dell'arte purposely stripped its characters of masks to force the audience to look beyond the flesh. Whether this in itself was intentional or not, it most definitely made for a beautifully crafted metaphor on stage, giving the show its unique touch.
That being said, the spirit of the show could not have thrived the way it did without the presence of its lightning-driven cast on stage. Keeping his audience laughing their way out of the theatre, Kawa Ada’s portrayal of the show’s title character, The Madman, particularly made for a well-rounded performance. The maniacal, yet brilliant portrayal maintained a firmly attached fishhook of deception to both the characters on stage and his audience, keeping us second guessing our own judgement, even after curtain call.
In addition to Ada, I personally found both Constables I & II (played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Daniel Williston) most enjoyable to watch on stage. The passive, yet perfectly timed ignorance of their jubilant characters not only made for a very balanced anchor that was the lunacy of the rest of the cast, but kept us distracted for what was to come.
All in all, without giving away too much (as I wouldn’t want to ruin the show for prospective viewers), I’d say that this performance left me particularly pleased and surprised, paving the way for future Commedia dell'arte inspired pieces to thrive in the world of contemporary drama.
Accidental Death of an Anarchist plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until Feb. 21. For more information visit www.soulpepper.ca.
photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann