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Scene from the Stables Theatre’s 2012 production of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of An Anarchist (photo: Peter Mould).

Dario Fo and the politics of theatre

Dario Fo, the Italian playwright who revolutionised political theatre, died in mid October. HOT’s John Knowles describes the formative – and liberating – effect Fo has had on his own writing and acting career.

When the death of Dario Fo was announced, I was in the midst of casting Hitleria Pizzeria, a play which in no uncertain terms owes a debt of thanks to the great man and his ground-breaking work such as Accidental Death of An Anarchist and Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!.

Photo: Alchetron.

Photo: Alchetron.

Fo is best known as an absurdist writer and producer, whose plays broke theatre conventions and rules and allowed an anarchistic freedom of expression. No longer would plays be defined within the conventions of a fourth wall, no longer would the players be constrained by a linear narrative; comedy, slapstick and the theatre of oppression defined the new drama.

Growing up in Liverpool was always going to be a socialist experience (though my reasons for joining the Young Communists was more to do with lust than Lenin). My own family were not political, though my Dad did once throw a bucket of water over a Tory candidate, but my youth was spent in the Everyman Theatre, where we rubbed shoulders, in the smoke-filled bowels of the building, with poets, writers, artists, musicians, anarchists and actors. Politics were never a more than a stone’s throw, or petrol bomb’s, throw away from our world. The Tories hated us and the rest of country seemed to think that to be a scouser meant you were a clown and a thief, that we had chips for every meal and chips on our shoulders the rest of the time (only one of these is actually true).

Dario Fo’s spirit seeped into the work of the Everyman and I grew up admiring the fact that theatre could be revolutionary and dangerous, that the boundary of the stage meant nothing, that we, the audience were an integral part of the play. Hitleria Pizzeria, an absurdist dark comedy that deals with death, life, politics and revolution, could never have existed without Dario Fo and the Everyman Theatre Liverpool, both of whom taught me that there are no walls, and if you find any that are trying to define you or enclose you, then kick them down!

These are dark times we are living through and I suspect Dario Fo would be surprised to see that his absurdist world has been made real with buffoons and clowns playing us all for fools.

From Hitleria Pizzeria.

From Hitleria Pizzeria.

Hitleria Pizzeria 11-13 November at the Garage (entry through the Horse and Groom, Mercatoria, St Leonards-on-Sea). Starts 8pm, running time approx 40 minutes.

Tickets: £7 and £6 available here.

 

 

See also Stuart Christie’s review of the Stables Theatre’s 2012 production of Accidental Death of An Anarchist.

Posted 21:32 Thursday, Oct 27, 2016 In: Performance

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