Abducting Diana is political satire on steroids, reminiscent of the zany antics inherent in a Marx Brothers film, except that it neither has the ingenuity nor the wit of a Groucho Marx-type character to keep it on its course. The ability for an audience to identify with, or imagine themselves in, an impossible situation is paramount to any concept of absurdity but, in most instances, the noise and confusion that clouds this ambitious Theatre of Heaven & Hell production allows scant place for reflection.
The play is broad physical comedy meant to be played at the level of hysteria. Under Michael Ward’s direction it doesn’t always work, but when it does it drives a dark, message across, one that is blatant in its accusation. We are all the devil’s pawn in the market place. At other times it struggles with material that plunges the play into the chaos of a circus act, as if there were too many balls juggling for any troupe of actors to handle.
And yet the entire cast does just that. It meets the challenge of such physically strenuous material, and maintains the relentless pitch at which the actors must play their scenes. Written by Dario Fo, the Italian maestro of political theatre, it is an attack on society and its institutions, primarily, the wealthy, the family, the church, the government, the media, and the easily corrupted revolutionaries who turn into capitalists at the faintest whiff of cash. No one here comes out alive – except for the ruling class, which is so reprehensibly useless and filthy that, like a cockroach, it is destined to survive.
Abducting Diana takes place in present-day London. The action kicks off around the kidnapping of wealthy media tycoon Diana Forbes McKaye (Elena Clements), her body double, a crooked priest, and a group of fumbling, bumbling anarchists who are working for the very capitalist pigs and hypocritical institutions they profess to despise. The characters wear Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Kim Jong-Un and Nigel Farage masks and – given the current state of politics – Johnson, Trump and Jong Un are even more hilarious than the characters in the Dario Fo script. The illustrious playwright would no doubt agree as he himself was twice refused entry to the United States because of his life-long
campaign against capitalism, its economic injustices and the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. As its reason for blocking Dario’s entry, the U.S. government went so far as to accuse him of aiding and abetting terrorist groups in Italy. It doesn’t get more hilarious than that.
Originally written as a condemnation of Italian politics and its societal norms, Abducting Diana’s themes are in no way alien to a British audience and resonate strongly with the manufacture of Fake News – the right make-up, camera angle, emotional spin to whip up the masses and a government can sell any bald-faced lie to a nation. Think of the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ scare-mongering that preceded the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And as we know now, there weren’t any.
Abducting Diana may have its flaws, but beneath the hysteria lies one playwright’s courageous efforts to expose the society we live in, its injustices and our own complacency in allowing those injustices to prevail. Dario Fo died in October 2016. Long live his theatre. Abducting Diana was close to his heart. Go see it.
Review by Loretta Monaco
Elena Clements – Diana Forbes McKaye, McKaye’s body double
Nicholas Bright – Duplicitous sex interest
Brian Eastty – Mother of Diana Forbes McKaye
Jake William Francis – Priest
Sarah Day-Smith – Kidnapper
Marius Clements – Kidnapper in the fridge
Darren Ruston – Kidnapper
Hen and Chickens Theatre Pub
109 St Paul’s Road
London N1 2NA
6th – 17th March Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm £10/8.50
Book tickets online: https://www.unrestrictedview.co.uk/buy-tickets/