Accidental Death of an Anarchist review – a riotous satirical farce brought bang up to date

Since 1970, when Dario Fo and Franca Rame premiered Accidental Death of an Anarchist, there have been more than 3,000 deaths in UK police custody. In that time, two officers have been successfully prosecuted for manslaughter. Those statistics, drawn from the charity Inquest, are projected on the walls of Anna Reid’s set as we leave the theatre, lest we forget this is not just a riotous farce but an angry broadside.

The message has already got through in Tom Basden’s full-blooded adaptation, which is laced with topical references to police malpractice, from dodgy WhatsApp groups to officers taking selfies with murder victims. This play has sometimes shown its age, coming across as an odd throwback to turbulent Italian politics of decades gone by, but for all its surreal swagger, Basden makes it a play for today – even if the targets of his attack are more generalised than specific.

None of this would count for anything were it not funny, and Daniel Raggett’s production is supremely so. The director plays it at breakneck speed, keeping the audience almost as bewildered as the corrupt officers trying to make sense of the dissembling truth-teller in their midst. Known only as the Maniac, he is an impostor masquerading as the lord chief justice (“My pronouns are we and us”), picking at the details of the case of a supposed anarchist who has fallen from a fourth-floor window while under interrogation.

The more he takes their side, the less credible they seem – a technique used so effectively by Joe Lycett when he told Laura Kuenssberg he was a big fan of Liz Truss. The officers can’t work out if they are being lampooned or lined up for promotion. Can their training in unconscious bias really have come to this?

Daniel Rigby as the Maniac brings the dazzlingly funny script roaringly to life. In a breathless performance, he charms us with a wink and a grin before setting about the officers with gleeful abandon. Before the play is through, he will end up with a bomb in his hands, but his performance is incendiary from the start. Matching his verbal dexterity with comic pratfalls, he is explosively and hilariously larger than life.

Until 15 October.