Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Assassins, Pleasance Theatre

Review: Assassins, Pleasance Theatre

Published in Time Out, 26.03.2012

While Sweeney Todd stalks the West End, Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins are patrolling London’s fringe. Ironically, given both ticket prices and subject matter, you get more bang for your buck with the former.

Nonetheless, Sondheim’s talent is such that ‘Assassins’ remains enjoyable despite this half-cocked production. Its cast of would-be US president slayers are catnip for actors, all eccentric and impassioned, and its songs surge into a rallying protest. Whenever Another National Anthem rings out it is as staunch as anything in Les Misérables.

Director Ray Rackham doesn’t catch this tone of righteous indignation until the end, emphasising comedy over cause. He gives us crackshot crackpots and, while each wannabe killer enjoys their moment, bowing beneath the starry, striped curtain, we never really feel the injustices of the American dream that moves their trigger-fingers.

Instead, it’s all a little underpowered and askew. Joe Bunker’s musical direction flattens the score’s subtleties. Some accents waver, some singing voices quiver, but there are some characterful performances nonetheless.

Brandon Force is likeably doolally as Charles Guiteau, Martin Dickinson makes a noble John Wilkes Booth and Johnjo Flynn’s preppy Balladeer, the very spit of JFK, morphs unnervingly into Lee Harvey Oswald.

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