Q&A: Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Ravi Jain on directing a Canadian production of Dario Fo's political satire

Presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company
Written by Dario Fo
Translated by Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante
Directed by Ravi Jain

Ravi Jain in rehearsal for Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Photo by Nathan Kelly.

To kick off their 2015 season, Soulpepper is presenting a Canadianized version of Italian playrwright Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist directed by Why Not Theatre's Ravi Jain. Currently on stage at the Young Centre, the production features a talented seven-member cast that includes Kawa Ada, Ins Choi, Oliver Dennis, Raquel Duffy, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Rick Roberts and Daniel Williston.

Here, Jain talks about adapting this comic masterpiece for a Toronto audience in his Soulpepper directing debut.

Theatromania: Tell us about Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist. How would you describe it in a few sentences?

RJ: Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a play that is based on a true story. In 1969, a man was being interrogated by police on the 4th floor of a police station. The man “fell” out of the window and the police called it a suicide. No police were ever indicted for the crime. People were outraged and so Fo made a play that exposed the lies and cover up, from actual transcripts from the trial. He pokes fun at the abuse of power in this absurdist comedy.

Theatromania: You and dramaturge Paula Wing got Fo’s blessing to replace the play’s Italian references with Toronto associations. Was that a difficult process?

RJ: Fo is heavily influenced by Commedia Dell’arte, a 16th century masked form of theatre in which actors would routinely improvise around the situations of the comedy. Fo allows people to update his plays based on the current time and context they are in, so that they stay alive and relatable to the people watching. For us, in the wake of Ferguson, Staten Island as well as stories like Ashley Smith and Edward Snowshoe, there is a lot to relate to.

Theatromania: What are some of the challenges of staging this particular piece?

RJ: It is a very physical comedy mixed with a lot of fast-paced dialogue. So finding that balance between the brain and body is hard…fun…but hard. I think we’ve done a good job. Also, because it’s a comedy based on a serious tragedy we’ve tried to find the right balance between the two.

Theatromania: This is your first time directing for Soulpepper. What excites you most about this opportunity?

RJ: This is my first time directing at Soulpepper and I couldn’t have been blessed with a more supportive team. The actors have been incredible to work with - they’ve formed a true ensemble of people who have really pushed themselves to figure out this show. It has been a lot of fun, and their generosity and support of me has been incredible. I should also mention that the Soulpepper stage crew, props, costume and all departments have also been stellar. Because of their tireless work we were able to get a serious head start rehearsing on the set, which is quite complicated. Everyone here has gone above and beyond, all with the energy of making the best show possible.

Theatromania: What have you learned from this experience so far?

RJ: Well. I love Dario Fo. His work is rarely seen in Toronto and it is very important. Stylistically it is unique. His subject matter is cutting and relevant and he manages to draw our attention to it through laughter. I’ve learned that the creative process can only function with a talented group of people who are ready and always say YES!

Accidental Death of an Anarchist runs until February 21, 2015 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Visit soulpepper.ca for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Sun, 2015-02-01 - Sat, 2015-02-21


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