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20 Another National Anthem
  • 20 Another National Anthem
  • Assassins
  • 2014-12-23 - Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory, London, UK (Matinee)
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Another National Anthem - Cast of Assassins

Assassins - 23rd December 2014 (Matinee)

One of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen. There’s not a single weak link in the cast and its Sondheim, what more needs to be said. I wasn’t planning on seeing anything else until after Christmas but by chance saw tickets became available for this matinee and couldn’t resist. Also AARON TVEIT WAS SAT NEXT TO ME FOR SEVERAL MINUTES DURING THE SHOW.

The Changeling's Lament by by shira lipkin

I have studied so hard
to pass as one of you.
I’ve spent a lifetime on it.

I have tells.
Blisters, tremors, bruises,
all the signs that I was not meant for your world,
was not meant to be contained
in your clothes,
your shoes.
I have this terribly inconvenient allergy
to cold iron.
Hives, really.
Welts.
I stand out.

When I was little,
I asked my alleged mother,
what’s a girl?

She said
you,
you’re a girl,
and she laced me into dresses
(that I tore off in the school parking lot,
in line for the bus).
Laced me into ballet shoes
that left blisters
and bloodied my feet
until I had calluses.
Which she had filed off,
beauticians pinning me down,
because it’s not beauty
if you don’t bleed.

My dancing was different.
My dancing was swaying treelike,
or launching myself across the room,
spinning madly,
but that is not what girls do,
not human girls,
not ladylike,
not contained.

And everything
is about containment
is about being delicate
and pretty
laced into corsets
whalebone stays digging into your ribs
because it’s not beauty
if it doesn’t hurt.

But I studied.
I pretended.
I hid the bruises
and the tics.
I hid the big dark parts of me.
I tamed my hair.
I watched my mouth.
I hid my magic.
I did not speak of such things
because we do not speak of such things –
not anger,
not homesickness,
not longing.
Not this sense
that I don’t know what the hell
a human girl is
and I can tell, I can,
that everyone knows I don’t belong here.
I laugh too loud;
I am too fast or slow to laugh.
I am an anthropologist in the field of girl.
I study
but none of it
ever comes
naturally.

None of it is in my nature.

I am something larger,
more fluid,
less constrained.
But I am stranded in this place.
I have had to learn how to live here.
I have tried.
So hard.

Assassins Review - Menier Chocolate Factory

Assassins is a cleverly directed revival of Stephen Sondehim’s musical from 1990 that gets you laughing at the darkest of situations. The Menier Chocolate Factory is the perfect place for it, where the audience can walk through the creepy stage at the beginning and look the asassins straight in the eye during the show. The small size of the theatre is used ingeniously throughout a song, as each person in the audience gets a taste of being in front of a (fake) gun and there is absolute silence for what seems like an eternity. 

We follow the story of a group of desperate and deluded people who attempted to assassinate the president of the United States - four of whom were successful. This is easy to follow due to the use of signs in the theatre, stating ‘Hit’ or ‘Miss’ and the clear change of atmosphere when the story moves to a different person. The constant change of music style makes for a very uncomfortable atmosphere, but also seperates the assassins and outcasts from the rest of the US. This seperation grows stronger and stronger as the show develops and the assassins become a unity, dependant on the act of Lee Harvey Oswald to make their rebbelling crimes remembered and significant.

With a piece like this, where the focus is on hated criminals, the audience is left dazed, because it is hard to watch the crimes of notorious people being explained and given more depth. We often forget that these people had, unreasonable and absurd as they were, their own reasons to do what they did and this musical reinforces that idea. However, the characters are not all developed in the same amount of detail and they can seem slightly two dimensional at times.

Having said that, the musical is very impressive, with its humorous yet dramatic take on the subject, the phenomenally terrifying actors and the brilliant stage effects. Three effetcs stick in my mind in particular. The first is the death of Giuseppe Zangara - played by Stewart Clarke - who was killed by being electrocuted. The lighting, together with Clarke’s acting made this moment almost unbearable and painfully realistic. The cheerful music - that is consistant throughout the show - that followed this moment made it even harsher. However, the change in tone was never more disturbing than after the death of Charles Guiteau who was hanged for the assassination of President Garfield. After his death, the music changed once again to the merry tune which represented USA’s society returning back to order. 

This leads me to the most memorable effect I’ve ever witnessed in the theatre, when blood-red ticker tape streamed down onto the stage (and the audience in the first row). The effect was dramatic and reminded you of how much blood had been shed by this point in teh show. 

Having said all of this, the musical is not perfect. I felt that some characters were underdeveloped - Sarah Jane Moore in particular, who was plainly presented as a stupid, clueless woman. Moreover, as fantastic as the actor’s singing was, there were no particularly astounding songs that a musical should have at least have one of. 

However, it was a brilliant musical that raised political ideas and showed awareness for outcasts in the society and people who do not live in as fortunate circumastances as others. It was astounding, educational and very, very dark.