Interview: Jordan Metcalfe on Accidental Death of an Anarchist, ‘Very topical and really funny’

by Jim Keaveney

Tom Basden’s adaptation of Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Dario Fo’s classic farce about the death of a man in police custody, relocates the show to contemporary London. Based on the true story of the death of Giuseppe Pinelli while being interrogated by the police, it opened at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith following a successful run at The Crucible, Sheffield last year.

The play stars Daniel Rigby as The Maniac, with a cast that includes Jordan Metcalfe as Detective Dan Daisy. Metcalfe, recently seen at the National Theatre in Jack Absolute Flies Again, took time out from preparations for the London run to talk to us about the play, what it’s like to return to a role and the excitement of a National Theatre Live performance.

Q&A with Jordan Metcalfe

Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into theatre and acting.

I’m from a place in East Yorkshire called Hull. I started acting when I was about 12 or 13 at Northern Theatre, which was the place that most actors, dancers, and singer went. From there I auditioned for the NYMT in London when I was 14, and from 14-16 I worked with them. From there, I guess I got spotted and I got an agent. My first job was Peter Pan with Richard Wilson at the Royal Festival Hall when I was 16 and then my second theatre job was at the Lyric Hammersmith playing Oliver twist in Neil Bartlett’s Oliver Twist. So, I’m back almost 20 years later. I caried on working professionally from being 16, through university up to about 22. I thought it would then be a good idea to train because it felt like everybody else at that age had trained and I hadn’t. So, then I went to The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I trained there for three years, and have been doing theatre since then really, which has been amazing!

How does it feel to be playing Detective Daisy again after the Run at The Crucible, Sheffield?

Exciting! I have never done this before, come back to a part or a play. It is great that all the original cast are back. It is just great to have another go at something if it has not been a particularly long run. I think often with theatre and particularly regional theatre, you can sometimes rehearse for longer than you are actually performing it. I think that is what we did in Sheffield, so it felt like we only had a couple of weeks. So it is great to be able to have another go at it and be doing it for a month at the Lyric. And in a different space, which means different challenges. So, just generally exciting to have another go and to get more rigorous and, I guess forensic. No pun intended! Just to go back through it and, I guess, have a look at stuff we could refine. It’s a great opportunity, basically to be more detailed and more rigorous with it second time round. So that we can tell an even better story, an even better version of Dario Fo and Tom’s Play.

Shane David-Joseph (Joseph) and Jordan Metcalfe (Daisy) in rehearsals. Photo Helen Murray

What can you tell us about your character Dan Daisy?

I would say the word arrogance comes to mind. He fancies himself as that kind of classic, maverick cop. If you cross Paul Rudd in Anchorman with, probably Ross Kemp in Eastenders, that would be quite good references for Dan Daisy. Underneath the confident, arrogant exterior. He is actually quite a spineless, self-serving, completely unprincipled policeman that is probably doing it for all the wrong reasons and everything [for him] is in black and white. But he really believes in the Police force, and he believes himself to be saving people. He is actually not; he is actually aggressive and arrogant and quite dim really. Without overly diagnosing Daisy because I am obviously quite fond of him.

He was initially going to be called Lance, and I think he was ‘Hurst’ in Dario Fo’s original. So, I feel like he has been on a bit of a journey thanks to me and Tom Basden working on him. I love playing him. That level of self-belief is quite nice to dip into when sometimes being an actor is full of insecurity.

Are you approaching the role and the play differently this time?

The biggest difference is re-locating Dan Daisy from the North to London, in the way he talks and sounds. We wanted him to be an ‘everyman’, just your local bobby. So, me being from the North, it felt very natural to create quite a northern Dan Daisy when we were doing it in Sheffield. Tom sort of wrote around me for that which was nice. We have definitely made it more London Met centric this time, which has been a really great challenge actually: to not make him a cartoon character and to make him authentically southern, from the suburbs or somewhere. Not just sounding like a cartoon cockney, making him believable was the main focus and the main challenge.

What was it like being part of the National Theatre Live production of Jack Absolute Flies Again last year?

It was absolutely amazing; it was such an amazing experience. I loved being part of that show and being on the Olivier and then being filmed to do it was incredible. It was exciting, and a bit nerve-wracking, but it also felt very supportive. It was such a supportive team of people at the National and also the cast and so I was just able to enjoy it and it felt like everyone enjoyed that evening of the Live production. I would love to do it again, really exciting!

How would you describe Accidental Death of an Anarchist to someone considering buying a ticket for the show?

I would say it is a political farce about police corruption but that might not sound that entertaining. Essentially, the plot is that a suspect has been killed in police custody and when the play begins we don’t know whether this is an accident or something more sinister. At the same time a man called The Maniac has been arrested and brought into the police station. He [The Maniac] sets about leading them on a wild goose chase. Creating lots of characters, one of them being a Judge, and getting them to farcically recreate the incident. This exposes the idiocy and corruption at the heart of policing essentially. So, it is a political farce about policing! It is very topical and really funny as well!

Accidental Death of an Anarchist is at Lyric Hammersmith Theatre until 8 April