"Certainly it was one of the best [performances] in Nottingham this year"
This evening at the Lace Market was remarkable on at least two counts.
The first was that here was a play, heavily and unashamedly political and didactic, that from start to finish managed to be a joy. It hit you over the head with its message but you loved every minute.
The second was Chris Ireson's performance as central character, Maniac. Certainly it was one of the best in Nottingham this year; it might be one of the best of Ireson's acting life.
Based on a real-life incident in 1969 where an anarchist was helped out of the fourth floor window of a Milan police station, Dario Fo's play combines agitprop with comedy. Maniac, a serial impersonator, obviously certifiable, turns up at the station in question to investigate the incident.
This is at times almost theatre of the absurd. And it's wildly meta-theatrical: the play talks about itself and its creator; and even the audience and the perils of am-dram. There are also some topical and local insertions, but even if there weren't contemporary parallels are obvious.
All performances are good. The smallest, from Chris Nixon as a compliant Constable who looks like a sheepdog, is a small gem.
But honours have to go Ireson's way. He looks sinister and menacing but child-like as well. And he pulls off a couple of long, animated speeches that ought to have drawn applause. He uses facial expression, voice, hands, entire body to dominate the stage.
More fine work from director Andy Taylor.