See article in its original context here by Sarah Walker on Stonnington Review.
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A song and dance about nine assassins, or would-be assassins, of American presidents is a surefire way to get audiences worked up after the laughter has subsided.
That’s the view of Windsor-based actor Matt Holly (pictured right in green), who plays John Hinckley jnr in Academy Award-winner Stephen Sondheim’s blackly comedic Assassins.
Hinckley tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981 to impress actor Jodie Foster during a long obsession with her.
The nine assassins include John Wilkes Booth, the actor who shot President Abraham Lincoln in a theatre in 1865, Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and Sarah Jane Moore, who made an attempt to kill President Gerald Ford in 1975.
“It’s like taking the camera lens of history and moving it to a different angle to show their inner workings,” Holly says.
“You will laugh at some of them, and sympathise even. Then it hammers home that what these people did was real.”
Holly was suitably disturbed when he first saw Assassins in 2010, performed by third-year National Institute of Dramatic Art students.
Holly’s credits include a national tour of West Side Story in 2010, the world premiere of the Cat Stevens show Moonshadow, the Australian premiere of Love Never Dies and a national tour ofA Chorus Line.
He says Assassins, directed by Tyran Parke, has one of the most talented ensembles he has worked with, including Nadine Garner.
The play won five Tony awards on Broadway in 2004. “These nine people are a product of the same society that created the presidents they want to kill,” Holly says.
“Through research it’s very hard to see them as human beings, but through the show we are finding serious comedy and heartfelt moments.
“A common thread is wanting to be heard. What I have noticed is how much of their killing, or attempts to kill, was born out of love, not hate. But it was a misplaced love.
“Hinckley has a bizarre fascination with Jodie Foster since she was a child actor. He tries to get her attention, goes to her school, her dorm. Before trying to kill [President Ford] he writes a letter and says ‘I will prove to you my everlasting love with one brave historic act’.
“You watch Nadine Garner play Sarah, for example, and you laugh and laugh. She is so funny.
“But in the end you remember Sarah tried to kill someone.’’