Wednesday, 17 December 2014

REVIEW - Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory


THROUGHOUT history there have been many people who have tried to kill some of America's long list of presidents - some successfully.
And a musical featuring nine of them - including three who succeeded - is now on at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Assassins, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is a funny and inventive show and although it doesn't set out to condone their actions, does aim to give some kind of back story to those who wanted to kill a president.
Jamie Lloyd's production is a joy, set in what looks like a dilapidated fairground, and features a star-studded cast that includes Jamie Parker, Mike McShane and Catherine Tate.
At 100 minutes with no interval it strides along at a brisk pace with a series of short scenes knitted together brilliantly.
We see each character - from some familiar names including John Wilkes Booth who shot President Lincoln and John Hinkley who tried to kill President Reagan to the less well known of Leon Czolgosz who shot dead President McKinley.
Each of them is given a chance to tell their story - either for personal glory or to bring down a political regime - and when they do take aim, the action stops momentarily before the shot rings out, bells chime out and a Hit or Miss sign is illuminated at either end of the thrust stage.
There are fine performances from the entire cast, particularly Andy Nyman as Charles Guiteau and Simon Lipkin as the Proprietor who encourages the nine to take aim.
Catherine Tate is hilarious as trigger happy Sarah Jane Moore, giggling as she continually fires her gun in mistake and Jamie Parker is brilliant as the balladeer who, right at the end of the show, is eventually unmasked as Lee Harvey Oswald and cajoled into taking a pot shot at President Kennedy.

Assassins is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street funtil March 7. Tickets from £30. Visit or call the box office on 020 7378 1713.

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