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Carnival of Killers

Outstanding ensemble of actor-musicians play Sondheim's band of anarchists

Trish Lee

Trish Lee

trish.lee@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886663

assassins

Assassins Picture: The Other Richard

Review: Assassins, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until October 26

Robin Strapp reviews

THE Watermill’s thrilling production of Assassins, astutely directed by Bill Buckhurst, definitely hits the target in Sondheim’s powerful musical, from a book by John Weidman. It explores the world of real-life assassins who each attempted to kill a US president, from Abraham Lincoln to John F Kennedy.

First performed in 1990, it brings together the protagonists in America’s gun culture society in the land of opportunity (but for who?) as the American Dream starts to fade. Joey Hickman, as the sleazy proprietor, welcomes us to the US fairground shooting gallery. A decaying red, white and blue- striped set, inventively designed by Simon Kennedy, introduces us to the nine would-be assassins as they buy their guns from a Coke machine. How appropriate.

The large highly-talented ensemble of actor/musicians are outstanding and embrace Sondheim’s varying score that reflects the changing periods with impressive skill.The dark vaudeville style, where the killers are encouraged to “C’mon and shoot a
President” starts with John Wilkes Booth’s (Alex Mugnaioni) murder of Abraham Lincoln (Matthew James Hinchcliffe),
who also convincingly plays the other
presidents.

Each of the anarchists has an individual reason for their actions, be that burning ambition, unrequited love, the Great Depression and its subsequent unemployment or even a stomach upset.

Lilly Flynn’s glorious Bandaleer is a joy as she acts as our narrator. Steve Simmonds gives a powerful performance as the deranged Samuel Byck, who dressed in a bedraggled Santa Clause outfit attempts to hijack a 747 airliner and crash it into the White House and annihilate Richard Nixon, but fails.

Also failing is Sarah Jane Moore (Sara Posner) and the hippy Lynette Fromme (Evelyn Hoskins) who, in a hilarious scene, smoke a joint while sitting on a park bench, before botching their attempts to kill President Ford and Italian Guiseppe Zangara (Zheng Xi Yong) who missed President Roosevelt, but killed the mayor of Chicago instead.

Eddie Elliott gives a showstopping Gospel performance as Charles Guiteau, who ends up on the gallows for shooting President Garfield. Ronald Reagan is shot by the stalker John Hinckley (Jack Quarton) – who is obsessed by Jodie Foster – but he survives and Peter Dukes is the Polish revolutionist infatuated by activist Emma Goldman (Phoebe Fildes) and kills William McKinley. Simon Oskarsson and Grace Lancaster play a myriad of characters in support.

Finally, we arrive at the book depository in Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald, splendidly played by Ned Rudkins-Stow, is persuaded in a moving and dramatic scene by the other assassins to kill President Kennedy. The poignant ending gives much food for thought. Highly recommended.

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