When one thinks about musicals, I am pretty certain that the assassinations of American presidents is not the first topic that comes to mind…
Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins seems to have taken many guises. Various cast inclusions, differing numbers of musicians, different sets… Rose Bruford’s third year students seem to have added another dimension to these variables. A static set comprising of an enlarged Statue of Liberty crown, enlarged nose and what looked like an eye. Apart from providing endless discourse about their possible significance, they gave the actors another platform for performing and took the place of any furniture onstage. The design of the crown cleverly masked the cast’s instruments in their shadowy depths, adding to the quite frankly surreal nature of the performance.
The thing that impressed me more and more as the play progressed was the talent of these students. They were all singing, acting, playing an instrument. A slight reshuffle and then they were all playing each others’ instruments. Then another shuffle. Each person was playing around three different instruments. And competently. The enormity of this project suddenly became clear. Learning lines and your blocking for a play is a task. As is learning the words to songs. Add in the necessity to learn music for over ten songs too and your admiration for what these students achieved mushrooms.
The programme explains how all the roles involved in putting on a performance were undertaken by other students of the college. What a talented bunch they have over there in Sidcup. All the elements neatly fused to create a professional performance.
I admire the fact they chose a relatively obscure piece. Of all Sondheim’s works, on asking around, this one does not seem to be too well known. It must be hard to find something that gives equal measure to thirteen actor musicians with varying talents. There was some discrepancy in onstage time and for this reason I am not going to single out any one performer. Some did have larger roles that enabled them to showcase their talent more easily. Everyone on that stage however was very talented. Many actors and musicians work hard developing their one specialisation – these guys have three. Multi-tasking at its best. If this is a taste of the future of British musicals – we’re in for a great ride.