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Italian farce with a musical break travels well

A play based on what author Dario Fo described as a “grotesque farce about a tragic farce” is being performed a long way from its roots, as a story about the death of an Italian anarchist who fell from a Milan police station in 1969 after being accused of a bank bombing.

The Sudden Impulse Theatre Company have kept in the left-wing references to fascist politics, and the 1980 English version of the play’s Carter and Nixon references, and added in mentions of Kim Kardashian and the Weinstein scandal.

Sophie Sherratt, as enquiring journalist Maria Feletti, questioning why she’s the only female character, is still relevant nearly 40 years on.

The play revolves around Maniac entering the police station of the “fall”, and disguising himself to question those involved in the fatal interrogation. Saul Bache admirably pulls off the difficult role of effectively playing three characters, and keeping up the pace.

Richard Shields is a Sweeney-style Superintendent, and Nathan Harvey plays Inspector Pissani as a slick-haired spiv, the pair of them tying themselves in knots as Maniac probes the truth.

The Constables played by Sam Bates and Louis Hayward are constantly on the go as comic but dangerous aides to their superiors, and Simon Winterman as Inspector Bertozzo who recognises Maniac for the threat he is, is the victim as most of the characters fall into a prolonged tumble to silence him in front of the journalist.

Farce is a hard act to pull off, specially when the subject material is from another country, and Fo felt comedy had triumphed over politics in English, but Sudden Impulse do an good job with both elements. And the cast’s musical performance in the bar during the interval was more entertaining than some other plays I’ve been to.

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