Dario Fo is an internationally acclaimed playwright, director, actor and composer. Born in 1926 in the village of Sangiano, in Lombardy, Italy, his upbringing would greatly influence his life and his career. His grandfather told stories to attract customers to his produce cart. His father, a fervent socialist, held a job as a railway station worker but, in his free time, was an amateur actor. Fo's mother wrote an autobiographical account of her childhood. The necessity of storytelling and performance were ingrained in Dario's bloodline.
In 1997, after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, he spoke about the people in his childhood community and how they affected his art: "They were the old storytellers, the master glass blowers, who taught me and other children the craftsmanship, the art, of spinning fantastic yarns. We would listen to them, bursting with laughter - laughter that would stick in our throats as the tragic allusion that surmounted each sarcasm would dawn on us."
Alongside art, politics shared an integral role in Fo's development. During WWII, his family smuggled refugees, allied soldiers, and Jewish scientists into Switzerland. Toward the end of WWII, while attending college, Dario was conscripted to Mussolini's army but refused to fight, opting instead to hide in an attic until the war was over.
Initially studying to be an architect, Fo made his acting debut in Milan in 1952 and began writing satirical cabarets. In 1954, he married Franca Rame, who was also from a theatrical family, and in 1959, they started their own theatre: Fo-Rame Theatre Company. Fo would write, direct, design, and compose the shows while Rame would frequently star. This is where Fo's career in the theatre took flight.
To this date, Dario Fo has written over 70 plays. Due to its pointed and satirical nature, his work is commonly censored by authority, both religious and political. But his understanding of the power of storytelling and his commitment to the plight of common man earned him the adoration of the public. Though he has been banned, threatened, rioted against, and arrested on behalf of his art, his plays continue to be performed in over 40 countries.
"Comedy is a form of madness" – Dario Fo
Accidental Death of an Anarchist takes place in Milan, Italy in 1970. In the 1960s, Italian labor unions gained significant strength, forcing the government to overprint money in order to pay wages, thereby causing run-away inflation. Toward the end of 1960s, unions began to strike, calling for better pay and working conditions. The youth of Italy piggybacked this cause and began protesting against their professors, the church, and the communist party. Many of these strikes and protests were met with violent retribution from the police. This period of time was known as "Hot Autumn."
Capitalizing on "Hot Autumn" were the neo-fascist groups, many of whom were backed and armed by the police. They began performing acts of terrorism in order to undermine the protests and strengthen the right-wing party.
Giuseppe Pinelli was a 41-year-old railway worker and anarchist. On December 12th, 1969, a bomb went off at the Milan Bank of Agriculture. Pinelli was arrested, interrogated and kept in custody for three days. On December 15th, he fell to his death from the fourth floor of the police building. Fo wrote Accidental Death in reaction to these events. Most of the information in the play is a dramatic reworking of the findings of the investigative journalists.