Tag Archives: Evelyn Hoskins

Assassins

Assassins

★★★★★

Watermill Theatre

Assassins

Assassins

Watermill Theatre Newbury

Reviewed – 30th September 2019

★★★★★

 

“knocks the socks off the original cast recording”

 

“Attention must be paid”. Towards the end of his musical ‘Assassins’, which had a triumphant performance at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury last night, the legendary Stephen Sondheim quotes this line from Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’.

‘Assassins’ is a musical that asks just exactly what would make ten Americans want to kill eight Presidents, from Lincoln to Reagan. The answer lies in that quote, which neatly also describes the audience’s rapt concentration during a quite extraordinary show. And if you are thinking that the killing of presidents and the fate of their would-be assassins is a rather macabre subject for a musical, be re-assured. Although it carries a 14+ advisory, this is an altogether entertaining and most thought-provoking show.

The Watermill has a history of championing eight times Tony award-winning Sondheim, whose work is held in such awe that even the most august critics are reduced to scrabbling autograph hunters in his presence. ‘Assassins’ is by no means his best-known work, but it is perhaps his most intriguing.

Not long into the piece, which had its premiere off-Broadway in 1990, the character of the Balladeer (here played with great presence and likeability by Lillie Flynn) sings “Every now and then the country goes a little wrong. Every now and then a madman’s bound to come along” And if you are thinking that line has more than a little resonance today, I suspect Sondheim would agree with you.

Space is tight at the Watermill, making any performance an intimate and involving experience. Director Bill Buckhurst has cleverly used a Coke machine to replace the fairground shooting gallery specified in the script, and Simon Kenny’s set design is starkly effective, with some ingenious twists towards the end.

It’s a little invidious to highlight standout performances in such a tight ensemble work, but several deserve special mention. Steve Simmonds’ has two brilliantly intense monologues as Samuel Byck, who planned to hijack a 747 to kill Nixon. Zheng Xi Yong gives a sinuous and wonderfully committed performance as Giuseppe Zangara who attempted to assassinate FD Roosevelt.

Evelyn Hoskins (Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme) and Sara Poyzer (Sarah Jane Moore) have some excellent scenes. Poyzer plays a cookie ex-Fed, nicely contrasting with Hoskins’ weed-toting take on mass-murderer Manson’s moll. Eddie Elliott has a powerful charisma as Charles Guiteau, especially in the difficult key-changing number he sings so brilliantly just before his character walks to the gallows. Joey Hickman has a menacing glassy-eyed demeanour as the Proprietor of this captivating parade of human failings. Alex Mugnaioni is eerily compelling as ‘the pioneer’ – the first Presidential assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Ned Rudkins-Stow has the task of bringing to life John F Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The traumatic impact of this murder on the American mindset resonates to this day, and Rudkins-Stow’s lean interpretation makes it crystal clear that Oswald was a simple-minded victim of manipulation.

Catherine Tyler is responsible for the compelling orchestration, which makes the most of the entire cast’s astonishing musical abilities, requiring some of them to play one instrument whilst holding another, and to jump seamlessly from drums or keyboard to appearing centre stage. Expert choreography by Assistant Director Georgina Lamb ensures it all works smoothly.

This version of ‘Assassins’ knocks the socks off the original cast recording and is strongly recommended.

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by The Other Richard

 

Assassins

Watermill Theatre Newbury until 26th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | October 2018
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | December 2018
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | February 2019
Macbeth | ★★★ | March 2019
Amélie | ★★★★★ | April 2019
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★★ | May 2019

 

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Lock & Key – 3 Stars

Lock

Lock & Key

The Vaults

Reviewed – 15th March

★★★

“Contemporary and relevant, this is a modern day musical that I’m sure many can identify with”

 

It is past 10 o’clock at night, in a cramped office that used to be a stationery cupboard, and on her birthday of all days, Jess (Evelyn Hoskins) is staying late under the instructions of her nightmare boss, Samantha (Tiffany Graves). All Jess wants is to do something creative, something that matters. “Turns out so does everyone,” she has realised. However when her boss leaves her a set of keys to finish off some proofs, there is one key Samantha tells her not to touch. When Jess chooses to ignore this, she discovers something far more gruesome than she could ever have anticipated.

This is a relatable and sympathetic narrative that takes a sinister turn, and it is a clear and damning comment on the sacrifices that we are expected to make in order to succeed in these cut-throat industries. Contemporary and relevant, this is a modern day musical that I’m sure many can identify with, whatever step of the ladder they are on.

Alice Simonato has designed the small space adeptly, and the set, costumes and lighting are well linked by the ominously recurring red of the filing cabinet. Hoskins and Graves are equally strong and compliment each other wonderfully, vocally and in terms of their performances. Both are consistently believable and Hoskins in particular has a fantastically natural tone to her voice which works brilliantly with the at times Sondheim-esque score. Bella Barlow (composer) transitions easily from sing/speak into more traditional song structures and A. C. Smith’s lyrics are well served within this framework. The music and the musicians themselves are impressive, though could have benefitted from being in a larger space, as the percussion in particular felt overly heavy and unnecessarily dominating at times.

The characters suffer from a lack of development and nuance. Whilst Jess’ story is a relatable one, it remains predominantly one note, so it became hard to maintain a connection with her. For this reason, and also because the ending feels overly sudden, the emotional impact of Jess’ final choice is barely felt by the audience. Though we see a momentary softness in Samantha’s character when we realise she is the carer for her ailing mother, the change between these two sides of her is so dramatic that it seems inconsistent and unbelievable, and therefore, again, had little emotional effect. A more subtle and complex approach to writing this other side of her characterisation could easily have remedied this, as I think the problem lies in the writing rather than its execution. The hallucinated ‘Giggles the Bear’ character feels confused and out of place, and unfortunately I think the piece needs to be in a larger space and to be longer and further developed in terms narrative complexity in order for it to realise its full potential.

‘Lock and Key’ presents a relevant and potentially excitingly sinister narrative, with strong performances and a fantastic score. However the piece in its current form is in serious need of development, from both a narrative and character perspective.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Nick Brittain

 


Lock & Key

Vaults Theatre until 18th March

 

 

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