Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Cover of a 2004 Italian edition of Morte accidentale di un anarchico
Written by Dario Fo
  • Maniac
  • Inspector Bertozzo
  • Inspector Pissani
  • The Superintendent
  • Maria Feletti
Date premiered 5 December 1970
Place premiered Capannone di Via Colletta, Milan
Original language Italian
Subject Police corruption; the death of Italian anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli
Genre Political farce
Setting Central Police Headquarters, Milan

Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Italian title: Morte accidentale di un anarchico) is the most internationally recognized play by Dario Fo, recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature. Considered a classic of twentieth-century theater, it has been performed across the world in more than 40 countries, including Argentina, Chile, the United Kingdom, India, Romania, South Africa, South Korea and Iran.[1]


The play is a farce based on the real-life events surrounding Italian railwayman and anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli, who fell – or was thrown – to his death from the fourth floor window of a Milan police station in 1969. Pinelli was accused of bombing a bank (the Piazza Fontana bombing) but was cleared of the charge. The events of the play, however, are fictional.


The play opens with Inspector Francesco Bertozzo interrogating a clever, quick-witted and mischievous fraudster, simply known as the Maniac, in Bertozzo's office on the third floor of the police headquarters in Milan. The Maniac constantly outsmarts the dim-witted Bertozzo and, when Bertozzo leaves the room, intercepts a phone call from Inspector Pissani. Pissani reveals to the Maniac that a judge is due at the police station to investigate the interrogation and "accidental" death of the anarchist, whilst the Maniac pretends to be a colleague of Bertozzo's and telling Pissani that Bertozzo is "blowing a raspberry" at him. The Maniac decides to impersonate the judge, Marco Malipiero, an opportunity he's been waiting awhile for, and to humiliate the policemen responsible for the "accidental" death. After Bertozzo reenters his office, the Maniac is forced out of the office, taking Bertozzo's coat and hat to use in his disguise. Bertozzo chases him, running into Pissani, who punches him in retaliation for "blowing a raspberry" at him.

The Maniac, now impersonating Malipiero, finds Pissani and his lackey, the Constable, in the room where the anarchist was during his interrogation. Telling them that he is Malipiero, the Maniac asks for the Superintendent, who was involved with the interrogation with Pissani and the Constable. The Maniac orders the three policemen to re-enact the events of the interrogation; in turn fabricating many of the events, such as changing beating the anarchist to making jokes with him, incorporating new lines into the transcript and even breaking out in song. When the investigation reaches the matter of the fall, the Constable reveals he grabbed the anarchist's shoe, in an attempt to stop him from falling. However, the Maniac notes that witnesses reported that the anarchist had both shoes on. When Pissani surmises that the anarchist was wearing a galosh, the Superintendent breaks into a rage, making Pissani accidentally reveal that the Superintendent pushed the anarchist out of the window. The two policemen then realise that the Maniac was listening. The phone in the office suddenly rings, which Pissani answers. He tells them that it is a journalist called Maria Feletti, who the Superintendent agreed to meet to clear rumors about the interrogation, wanting to come up to the office.

As the presence of Judge Malipiero would endanger them, the policemen tell the Maniac to leave for the time being. Instead, the Maniac intends to disguise himself as a forensic expert from Rome, Captain Piccini. The Maniac leaves the office. Feletti nearly exposes the three policemen, until the Maniac reenters, as an extravagantly-dressed amputee. The Maniac manages to concoct a story on how the anarchist died: one of the impatient policemen hit the anarchist in the neck, an ambulance being called; the anarchist then being led to the window for fresh air, and pushed accidentally out of the window due to uncoordinated balance between the two policemen leading him to the window. Feletti is unconvinced, noting how the death of the anarchist was reported by the police to be a suicide, opposed to their original comment that it was "accidental". Bertozzo suddenly enters, delivering a replica of a bomb from another anarchist attack. Bertozzo partially recognises the Maniac, as he knows Captain Piccini, but is dissuaded by Pissani and the Superintendent. Feletti begins to pick out the inconsistencies in the policemen's stories, and showing that anarchists in Milan are mainly fascists, not actual revolutionaries.

Bertozzo realises that "Piccini" is the Maniac, after seeing his coat and hat on a stand. Bertozzo, holding the policemen at gunpoint, orders Feletti to cuff the three policemen; getting the Maniac to show them his medical records, exposing him as a fraud. The Maniac reveals a tape recorder, which he used to record Pissani and the Superintendent's tirade, exposing their crime. The Maniac strips off his disguise, making him recognizable to Feletti, who identifies him as Paulo Davidovitch Gandolpho, the "Prose Pimpernel of the Permanent Revolution" and "notorious sports editor of Lotta Continua". Revealing that the bomb replica can in fact work, setting it off on a timer, the Maniac has Bertozzo join his fellow policemen. Feletti attempts to stop the Maniac, citing the Maniac as an "extremist" and "fanatic". The Maniac, instead of killing her, offers her an ultimatum: save the four corrupt policemen, acquitting them and the Maniac will be put behind bars; or leave them to die for their crime and unwittingly join the extremist movement as an accomplice. The Maniac then leaves to spread the recording.

The Maniac then addresses the audience, showing what the scenario entails. When Feletti leaves them, the four policemen die in the resulting explosion. However, the Maniac then offers the second result: sticking to the rule of law, Feletti releases them, but is chained to the window by the policemen when they realize that Feletti knows what they did. The Maniac then leaves the audience to decide which ending they prefer.


A sequel, Pum pum! Chi è? La polizia! (Knock Knock! Who's There? The Police!), followed, which the semiotician Umberto Eco commented favourably on in a weekly column in L'Espresso.[2]

Blanco death

An actor Mark Blanco, who was cast in the lead role for Accidental Death of an Anarchist at a London fringe theatre, died in unexplained circumstances himself in December 2006 shortly before the production was about to open. Blanco fell to the ground from a balcony in Whitechapel, East London. His family said: "We absolutely do not believe that Mark committed suicide, or that his death was a simple accident." They continue to press for information on Blanco's last hours at the party from those who were present, including society junkie Paul Roundhill and former Libertines singer Pete Doherty.[3]

List of major productions

A 2009 production of the play at The Doon School in India


Ed Emery translated an authorised English-language version.[16]

Further reading

See also


  1. Mitchell 1999, p. 101
  2. Mitchell 1999, pp. 121–122
  3. Barkham, Patrick (9 December 2006). "Family adamant 'Dario Fo death' was not accidental". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 December 2006.
  4. IMDB entry for 1983 broadcast
  5. Kazmi, Nikhat. "Dario Fo's adaptation operation three star". The Times of India. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  7. O'Grady, Jane. "Accidental Death of an Anarchist". Online Review London. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  8. Review on DailyInfo
  9. Review on BBC website
  10. Dave's House Theatre Company
  11. Review on Dance and Theatre Cornwall Archived January 16, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. "Nothing accidental about it". Pune Mirror. 16 May 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  13. "Accidental Death Of An Anarchist". Sydney Morning Herald. 16 September 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  14. Bechara Maara Gaya. 23 May 2009.
  15. "Bechara Maara Gaya A Political Parody". 13 January 2014.
  16. Fo, Dario. Accidental Death of an Anarchist, trans. Ed Emery, in Dario Fo: Plays One, Methuen Books, London, 1988.

External links

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