The Korea Herald


‘Death of an Anarchist’blends social commentary, comedy

By Korea Herald

Published : April 20, 2016 - 18:36

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Busan expats will have a rebel to root for -- or not -- in a satirical classic play that starts its run this weekend.

Busan English Theatre Association is staging “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” by Dario Fo, over two weekends.

The play is a work of fiction, but was inspired by the real-life case of an activist who died in police custody while being investigated for a bombing he did not carry out -- the cause of his fall from a fourth-floor police station window being unclear.

In Fo’s narrative, police interrogate a maniac, who then proceeds to run rings around the law enforcement and a judge.

For director Tim Bertucci, Fo’s play is mainly a comic farce, but he said it would leave audience members with something to think about.

“We’re unapologetically serving up the social aspects, which include some harsh realities like fascism lingering in Italy’s armed forces, or the Vietnam War continuing on, but the audience comes away far more entertained than disillusioned,” he said.

“I suspect, however, that more than a few audience members will find the content intellectually stimulating, despite the play’s outward silliness.”

Bertucci was assistant director for BETA’s production of Kim Tae-woong’s “The Clowns,” and has stepped up to direct this play with many of the same people, with last year’s director Jeffrey Schoenfeld performing.

“The Accidental Death of an Anarchist” has been adapted into dozens of languages and performed all around the world, with some productions swapping Italian references for local ones -- Fo supports his work being adapted for audiences anywhere, so it’s a popular choice for amateur theater companies, Bertucci said.

They include some English-language productions, but this version will be a new translation, albeit with the original references kept intact.

“I’d read two English translations, but I wasn’t in love with either one. I decided, while reading the original Italian, that I should just write my own adaptation,” Bertucci said. 

Busan English Theatre Association’s “The Accidental Death of an Anarchist” (Sarah Dawn Lowry) Busan English Theatre Association’s “The Accidental Death of an Anarchist” (Sarah Dawn Lowry)

The Busan version keeps everything set in 1970 Milan with the same bank bombing and references, but with the dialogue written in keeping with 2016 and the comedy designed to mesh well with today’s sensibilities.

In that area, the director said that the original script was great to work with.

“The comedy of the original is so rich, so we’re lucky to have a great foundation there. The play is a farce, but we’ve got a nice mix of everything going on,” Bertucci said.

“There’s biting social commentary with deadpan delivery, but also moments of physical comedy and plenty of silliness.”

That said, Bertucci is a particular fan of the “groan-worthy or frustrating moments which carry you, powerless, into a fit of laughter.”

And though the play retains its original setting, Bertucci sees the play’s subject as relevant to today’s issues.

“Its content -- corruption in law enforcement, police brutality, government suppression of the left -- is just as relevant today as in 1970, when the play was written and premiered on stage,” he said.

“When we see time and time again how police departments in the United States are covering up the injustices committed in their ranks, a comedy like this one reveals a bit of that absurdity.”

“Accidental Death of an Anarchist” is on at the Butterfly Theater near Suyeong Station on Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., on April 30 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and May 1 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are 12,000 won ($10.60) in advance or 15,000 won at the door. To reserve, email with the name, number of tickets, date and time of the show.

By Paul Kerry (