Tag Archives: Simon Oskarsson




Watermill Theatre



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



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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Return to the Forbidden Planet – 3 Stars


Return to the Forbidden Planet

Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Reviewed – 16th May 2018


“undeniably great fun, supported by consistently strong performances”


The Intergalactic Starship Albatross, with Captain Tempest at its helm, is on a standard interplanetary scientific survey mission, when it is pulled onto a planet not even marked on their cosmic charts. Here they find Doctor Prospero and his daughter Miranda, and discover Prospero’s secret formula for telegenesis, a dangerous invention that aims to be able to create matter from brain power alone. So ensues a cult tale of love, trickery, deception and monsters.

The musical by Bob Carlton, which won the 1990 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, is a well crafted mixture of fifties and sixties pop anthems and Shakespearean text. The musical is loosely based on the 1950s film ‘Forbidden Planet’, which was based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ but the piece borrows lines from across Shakespeare’s oeuvre: “Two beeps or not two beeps, that is the question” was a particular favourite with the audience. The word play is intelligent and witty, and we don’t lose a syllable of it thanks to the cast’s clear and lively delivery.

The actor-musician cast is consistently strong all round, deftly switching from vocals to saxophones and trumpets, led by musical director Rhiannon Hopkins. Simon Oskarsson’s fantastic robot on roller skates Ariel, is the standout performance of the production, a detailed and committed characterisation full of energy, playfulness and wit. The evil Gloria played by Ellie Ann Lowe is also particularly strong – slick, fierce and effortless, something which other members of the cast could learn from as there are a few too many moments where it is clear how hard this cast are working. Certainly playing instruments, singing, dancing and acting is no easy feat, but the cast need to make it look easy, something I’m sure they will achieve as they settle into the run. In fact there isn’t a weak link across the cast in terms of talent, though at times certain performances could be a little more streamlined, the brilliant energy levels just a little more focused.

A few things need ironing out – there’s the odd technical issue and clumsy musical moment but the audience is so onside that these moments are utterly forgivable. The production is brimming with wit and silliness, no desire to take itself too seriously, something which is echoed in the design – neon blue space suits and yellow and purple set designed by Amy Yardley.

This production is undeniably great fun, supported by consistently strong performances, and you will be sure to leave with a smile on your face.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Darren Bell


Return to the Forbidden Planet

Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 17th June



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