Left – David Campbell, Bobby Fox and Jason Kos. Cover – Kate Cole and Bobby Fox. Photos – Phil Erbacher
Given the current state of both American and Australian politics, both fixated on silencing the voices of diversity, it is a timely production of Assassins at the Hayes Theatre in Darlinghurst.
This is perhaps Stephen Sondheim’s most dangerous creation. He gives a voice to the disenfranchised. Those individuals who don’t feel they have a say in their society and believe that violence is the only means of expression left to them. Specifically, the desire to assassinate the President of the United States. They do it for love, for patriotism, for greed, for human rights – any number of reasons. Some are crazy, some are quite sane. Some succeed and some fail – all just want to be heard.
And that is the most poignant statement of the piece really. Those voices longing to be heard. To find their own power in a world where they otherwise feel powerless. They believe that “all you have to is move your little finger… and you can change the world” – but in this case the finger is on the trigger of a gun.
But the work doesn’t celebrate them as heroes, it rather leaves us thinking about ways we could be changing society for the better, so as not to disenfranchise these figures in the first place. A lesson some of our current leaders could well be learning.
And the teachers of this production are doing a superb job of the lesson.
The malevolent carnival atmosphere created by director Dean Bryant and designer Alicia Clements (no relation) perfectly sets the tone for the black comedic elements of this twisted fantasy, and works as an ideal metaphor for life in the USA.
It is a talented experienced company of performers who tell this tale, and it is musically very strong under the baton of Andrew Worboys. Fine voices all round and a great band. And while the marketing focuses on the popularity of David Campbell in the lead role of John Wilkes Booth the entire company are uniformly superb. Each has their moment to shine and none disappoint. But for me the highlight of the evening is Bobby Fox as Charles Guiteau. He harnessed the immense volatility and charming insanity of the character in a performance both breathtakingly energetic and tightly restrained. And received the loudest applause from an admiring audience.
But it is tribute to all that this did not overshadow the rest of the company in any way. Wonderful moments appear throughout the production, blinking on and off like the carnival lights that surround them and leading to that incredible final scene in the Texas Book Depositary. No spoilers here, despite the inevitable outcome – it’s just a superb piece of script writing based on a deliciously twisted premise.
Assassins is definitely music theatre rather than “a musical”. It is a demanding piece requiring extraordinary actors with incredible voices and a production team sensitive to the dangerous territory they traverse. This production does not disappoint in any area and it is a rare chance to see this risky and wonderful Sondheim gem. Go.
Hayes Theatre Co presents
music and lyrics Stephen Sondheim | book John Weidman | based on an idea by Charles Gilbert Jnr
Direction by Dean Bryant
Venue: Hayes Theatre Co | 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point NSW
Dates: September 15 – October 22, 2017
Bookings: www.hayestheatre.com.au | (02) 8065 7337