Tag Archives: Andrew Pepper

San Domino – 2 Stars


San Domino

Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 10th June 2018


“The key players are never given a chance just to be themselves and convince they are worth rooting for”


A creaky, wooden interior. Barrels serve as tables, milk crates as chairs. There are shelves stuffed with champagne glasses and bottles of wine. A jaunty band whip up a storm on accordion, violin and double bass, setting the stage for a bohemian romp into the past … San Domino, Tim Anfilogoff and Alan Whittaker’s 1939-set musical, starts with promise, but quickly disappoints.

Eight Italian men in this café in Catania, Sicily are rounded up, labelled as degenerates, convicted to ‘internal exile’ and shipped off to San Domino, an island off the east coast of southern Italy to serve their sentence. Their crime? Being gay. Imprisoned, relationships between the boys (and a woman!) flourish and fall, lives are put at stake and one camp guard discovers an inconvenient (and ironic?) truth about himself. How will the boys get home, and what will they have lost?

The plot is ambitious and its themes vital. In the tight Tristan Bates Theatre, it bursts at the seams. Faye Bradley’s gorgeous set design does its best with a small space. With a humongous cast of thirteen, the ensemble seems restricted in movement, and Matthew Gould’s direction at times leaves the actors awkwardly in the way of action. Generally speaking, the ensemble excels in the musical numbers, with stand-out vocals from Callum Hale and Joe Etherington. The star of the show is Andrew Pepper’s cross-dressing Pietro though. Pepper is witty, flamboyant, charismatic and utterly bewitching.

San Domino’s biggest fault is Anfilogoff’s book and lyrics. With such a large host of characters, it becomes difficult to care enough about each of them. New characters are introduced and new storylines thrown in making such a soup of information that it becomes quite hard to follow. Dramatic leaps are made with little or no reasoning behind them. Songs are asked to carry too much narrative weight than they can deliver. The key players are never given a chance just to be themselves and convince they are worth rooting for. Most disappointing is the decision to give what feels like the majority of romantic airtime to the only heterosexual relationship in the show. What should be a core relationship, and perhaps the only positive gay relationship in the show, is briefly mentioned, forgotten about, and, suddenly, the couple are performing a covert, ceremonial marriage ritual, leaving the audience (read: me) thinking: “What on earth have I missed?”

San Domino does offer a crucial insight into Europe’s fascist history, and its punishment of gay men. The band are superb, and almost every actor whips out an instrument at some point. “Cack-handed” and “Letters From Home” are two songs that show off the skills of the entire creative team beautifully, and suggest that Anfilogoff and Whittaker could become a formidable musical producing partnership.

To address gay history through theatre and song is bold and brave, and though no romp, San Domino is informative, emotional, and a story well worth hearing.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Rachael Cummings


San Domino

Tristan Bates Theatre until 30th June


Previously reviewed at this venue
Love Me Now | ★★★★ | March 2018
Lucid | ★★★★ | April 2018
Meiwes/Brandes | ★★★ | April 2018


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Assassins – 4 Stars



Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd March 2018


“a commendable production of a show that seems more significant than ever”


As we are in the midst of shaky political times, where uncertainty is widespread, and volatile tyrants lead some of the world’s most powerful nations, it seems only right to revive a musical that follows the anger and frustration of citizens who put all their blame on the heads of their government. Stephen Sondheim’s darkly humorous Assassins, whose last London revival was three years ago, now comes to the Pleasance Theatre with a highly pertinent, and thought-provoking adaptation. It is one of the King of Broadway’s less well-known productions, yet, it still blends some of Sondheim’s most recognisable qualities of bringing challenging yet powerful stories to the foreground.

Starting as a murderous fairground game that offers the gun-slinging attempt to ‘Hit The Prez’, it unfolds into the true-life tales of the nine men and women who have tried, or, succeeded in assassinating the President of the United States. Set in the Vaudeville/Revue-style of yesteryear, we in turn focus on each person’s story, getting a better understanding as to his or her motivations. Whether it is fame, notoriety, delusion, or simply a troublesome stomach pain, each assassin has a reason for wanting to strike.

The use of a brilliant revolving stage helped to establish the swift variety performance style, yet there were moments, particularly halfway through, where the pace seemed to be lacking. Musical Director Jordan Clarke did a fine job at leading the small group of musicians through Sondheim’s demanding score, whilst the rather large cast all gave commanding performances, with not one weak link. Particular standouts were Andrew Pepper as Charles Guiteau, whose eccentric characteristics resembled that of crooked Fagin, and Alfie Parker as Samuel Byck, whose one-sided rant into a tape recorder, meant for Richard ‘Dick’ Nixon, is a standout scene.

A nod to Donald Trump is made towards the end, which rather forcibly and heavy-handedly reminds the audience that this show is relevant to the present climate. Anyone with half a brain could already make the connection, so it feels like an unnecessary gimmick, however, regardless of the unwarranted ending, this is a commendable production of a show that seems more significant than ever.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole



Pleasance Theatre until 8th April



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