Tag Archives: Callum Hale

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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Isaac Saddlesore & the Witches of Drenn – 4 Stars


Isaac Saddlesore & the Witches of Drenn

Hen & Chickens Theatre

Reviewed – 8th April 2018


“This is not sophisticated comedy, and doesn’t pretend to be, but it is skilful theatre”


The Adventure of Isaac Saddlesore and the Witches of Drenn is a comedy caper in the style of a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Written by Callum Hale, who also gives a terrific turn as the blustering Aussie anti-hero Sir Maxwell Gropefund, it follows the private detective, Isaac Saddlesore, and his long-suffering companion Dr George Hotbuns as they seek to uncover the true cause of the curse which seemingly lies over the Gropefund family. The publicity promised an evening of ‘bad puns, single entendre and daft names aplenty’, and did not disappoint. What was a treat to discover however, was the professionalism of this young company, in evidence at every turn.

This is not sophisticated comedy, and doesn’t pretend to be, but it is skilful theatre. The Micawber Theatre Company run a tight ship and it was a pleasure to watch a piece of original comedy that was truly funny, pacy and well-rehearsed. Hale’s writing ably parodied the conventions set in place by Conan Doyle, with some frolicsome meta-theatrical touches pleasing to a 21st century palate. The cast worked extremely well as an ensemble, and there was some terrific multi-role work on display from Alice Osmanski and Sam Young in particular. Their ability to move between roles at high speed in the fast and furious denouement was delicious, and gave a shot of comedy aderenaline to the capacity crowd at the Hen & Chickens.

Lewis Allcock and Roger Parkins were well cast as the crime-fighting duo, though Saddlesore was the only role which seemed a trifle underwritten. Parkins gave a performance of tremendous brio, which occasionally overshadowed that of his capricious friend, owing to the quality of the material. Much was made of Saddlesore’s cocaine addiction, but the detective’s lines (pun entirely intended) didn’t always give Allcock what he needed. The comic business between the two was terrific throughout however, with the perfectly performed high speed chase a particular highlight.

The fact that a high speed chase was even possible in this tiny space is credit to Amy Wicks’ superb and inventive direction. The physical comedy was slickly choreographed and the space transformed with creative flair throughout. Dylan Allcock’s atmospheric and frequently hilarious musicianship also played an important part in the success of this energetic and entertaining production. The Micawber Theatre Company simply fizzes with talent and deserves every success.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw



Isaac Saddlesore & the Witches of Drenn

Hen & Chickens Theatre



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