Theatre Review: Assassins

Wanna shoot a president? Nottingham Playhouse and the Watermill Theatre collaborate to bring Stephen Sondheim’s satirical musical from Broadway to Notts…

The play takes a satirical look at the successful and unsuccessful attempts to assassinate people who have held the position of president of the United States from Lincoln to Kennedy. The play takes a carnival game approach with a glamorous host presenting and watching over the events encouraging the events to be carried out. These events expose the dark underbelly of the US and the truth of the American dream and how a regular person can become a killer.

This is one of the most unique shows I’ve seen. In this show, the actors don’t just sing, act and dance but they also play their musical instruments on stage which is a trend I have seen growing in theatre and happily welcome as it makes the action feel more personal and immersive. The actors also regularly walk in the audience area.

The show, despite originally coming out 30 years ago, still feels relevant today and can be described as one massive satire. For example, the assassins get their guns from a vending machine highlighting how easy it is to buy a gun in the US, and each assassination is treated like a carnival game.

It also highlights the ignorance and conspiracies bought up the US from animal testing, fast food, American Football, social justice and the celebrity culture. The assassins themselves are handled just right with the right amount of fascination to want to look further into them (much like Hamilton has done today) but at the same time not glamourising them and instead condemning their actions.

My personal favourite was Sara Jane Moore (who attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford) who is treated very comedically by Sara Poyzer but can also be quite chilling, such as when she points her gun at her own son. Although the guns are just props, a chill goes down my spine when they pointed at the audience. My favourite songs were ‘The Ballad of Booth’ and ‘Everybody’s Got the Right’.

In conclusion, if this was a game (which it definitely wasn’t), I say this show was a bullseye. Dripping with satire and tackling subjects still relevant today, Assassins continues Nottingham Playhouses’s successful year – let’s hope their final show also hits the mark.

Assassins is on at Nottingham Playhouse from October 30 – November 16.

By Stuart McComb

Feature image credit: Theatre Royal

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