Theatre review: Assassins at the Pleasance

21:45 15 April 2012

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim's Assassins at the Pleasance. Photo credit: www.francisloney.com

Archant

Stephen Sondheim musical about US presidential assassinations goes off with a bang

»The history of attempts to kill US presidents isn’t exactly a subject that screams out to be made into a musical.

But with his 1990 show Assassins, now revived at the Pleasance, Sweeney Todd composer Stephen Sondheim did just that, somehow conjuring comedy from this unlikely theme.

It begins by introducing the would-be assassins – four who got their targets and five who failed – in a darkly funny first number, Everybody’s Got the Right. One-by-one they emerge before a charismatic gun-seller, who convinces them that killing a president will solve all their problems - even stomach cramps.

The show examines what drove each of this group of misfits. Occasionally the tone reflects the serious subject, as when it focuses on put-upon factory worker Leon Czolgosz, who killed William McKinley, but on the whole it is played for laughs.

Most of the characters are nutty buffoons, the loopiest of all being Charles Guiteau - hilariously played by Brandon Force - who thinks he will be made French ambassador and takes aim at James Garfield when he isn’t.

The comedy helps strip away the weight of their historical significance to present them as simply confused and disturbed people - and there is probably truth in that.

The cast, from a troupe dedicated to Sondheim’s works, 2nd Company, put in strong performances throughout to ensure this funny and thought-provoking production goes off with a bang.

* Assassins was at the Pleasance in Carpenters Mews, N7

Latest Stories

Yesterday, 12:44
American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria (AP Photo/freejamesfoley.org, Nicole Tung, File)

The SAS is closing in on the man known as ‘John’, suspected of being from London, who brutally executed US journalist James Foley.

Read more
Yesterday, 10:10
Ishak Ayiris is set to study at Eton College.  Photograph by Lucy Ray

A schoolboy who secured top marks in his GCSEs is set to follow in the footsteps of David Cameron and Boris Johnson after winning a scholarship to Eton worth £76,000.

Read more
Yesterday, 18:49
The student was caught trying to board a flight at Stansted Airport with eight flares in his luggage (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

A student from north London was caught trying to board a plane at Stansted Airport with eight explosive flares and a terrorist manual.

Read more

Top Stories

Promotions

Advanced running and training technology for beginners up to elite athletes

If you’re thinking of adding running treadmill to your fitness routine, you’re on the right track! There are several advantages to running on a treadmill versus running outdoors.

Renault-Zoe

The Renault ZOE follows on from the introduction of the electric Fluence ZE and Twizy, but unlike the former, the ZOE was designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.

When no simple way to find Real Ale was at hand, 4 Ale enthusiasts got together to allow anyone with a smart phone to find Real Ale no matter where they happened to be, this was the birth of the Perfect Pint app.

Quizzes

James Bond is Britain’s most famous secret agent, and the capital is its most famous city, so it makes sense that 007 would live and work here when he isn’t gallivanting around the world.

Read more
Can you find the animals hiding in London station names? (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

You may not realise it but there are animals hiding in stations across London? Play our quiz and see if you can you find them:

Read more
Can you guess the Tube station just from the outside? (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

How well do you know your Tube stations? Can you guess these Underground stops from the pictures taken outside them?

Read more