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Review: I Shot Mussolini at La Mama Courthouse

By Natalie Hamman

I Shot Mussolini is a story about an eccentric Irish woman who attempted to kill the Italian dictator; Mussolini, and the Italian policeman who wanted to find out why.

It is written and directed by Alice Bishop and features 8 performers. The honourable Violet Gibson is portrayed by Heather Lythe and accompanied on stage by the talented Greg Parker who plays Chief Superintendent, Epifanio Pennetta. We are introduced to a variety of other different characters who are performed by the remaining actors; Bridgette Burton, Michael F. Cahill, Anthea Davis, Sophie Lampel, Marco Lawrence, and Matthew Molony.

Violet Gibson is a devoutly religious woman who attempts to murder Mussolini. It is Italian Police Chief Superintendent, Epifanio Pennetta’s job to find out why. Thus we are thrown into 90+ minutes of madness and conspiracies (it is worth noting that whilst the official run time is 90 minutes, the production I saw ran nearly 20 minutes over that so plan your transport home accordingly).

While the overall performance given was of good quality, it did suffer some shortcomings. The most notable of these was accent inconsistency. Speaking with an accent is difficult, especially for over extended periods of time and for that I commend the actors on their strong performance, however the inconsistencies were enough to deserve a mention.

An Irish accent is one of the most well known and recognised accents worldwide. Unfortunately, this made it all the more obvious when a few words here or there were spoken with an Australian accent. Make no mistake, Heather Lythe has done a commendable job on her performance of Violet Gibson, and truly portrays the madness of her character tremendously. It is therefore even more of a shame that her accent breaks the believably of her performance.

This is the only compliant that I have against the performers themselves. Overall the actors were a delight to watch. It is unfortunate then that I shot Mussolini was so…well, frankly, boring. Whether this is the fault of bad writing or simply boring subject matter, I cannot say, but ‘I Shot Mussolini’ is a very LONG performance to sit through, especially with the extended run-time and no interval.

I shot Mussolini was also difficult to follow at times. The performance used very minimal props and most scenes were simply rearrangements of the same two chairs and one table. (With the occasional appearance of a typewriter) While I have seen the same minimalist style used for many different shows, it unfortunately did not work in this instance and it was difficult to distinguish the locations of each new scene.This in turn made it difficult to recognise new characters as costuming was also used minimally and each performer portrayed at least half a dozen different characters.

The use of lighting did not help in this regard, as most of the stage was enveloped in semi or complete darkness throughout the performance. While low lighting is often used to portray a seriousness or sombre emotion, the lighting was altogether too dark and many of the actor’s facial expressions were lost.

It is unclear what Writer/Director Alice Bishop’s vision was for I Shot Mussolini. The performance had no clear end I struggled to find anything major to take away from the performance.

A word of caution; ‘I shot Mussolini’ has strong religious overtones in regards to the character; Violet Gibson. (who is portrayed as a devout Catholic). These scenes can be overwhelming at times and may be upsetting to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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