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I Shot Mussolini

29 November 2019 | 1:31 pm | Irene Bell

"[T]he true story of a woman who tried to kill Mussolini and failed, spectacularly so." Photo by Renan Goksin.

I Shot Mussolini, written and directed by Alice Bishop, is an exciting and entertaining show depicting the true story of a woman who tried to kill Mussolini and failed, spectacularly so.

Violet Gibson, played with vigour and enthusiasm by Heather Lythe, travels from Ireland to Rome in order to kill Mussolini and thus become a martyr, joining the ranks of St Joan of Arc, St Teresa of Avila, St Dymphna and others who counsel her. The play opens with Violet shooting Mussolini and missing. What ensues is the Italian police trying desperately to figure out if she is mad or truly a danger to society.

Bishop is a master of dialogue and the play flows beautifully between drama and comedy. The pacing is great, with the show never meandering in a scene for too long. The acting is superb, with the scenes between Violet Gibson and Epifanio Pennetta – played with subtlety and perfect tone by Greg Parker – the strongest. Lythe and Parker have great chemistry as two people dancing around each other, both recognising each other’s intelligence. The cast, all playing a myriad of characters coming in and out of the drama, have great timing and pacing, each transforming into completely different people with a simple addition to the generally sparse costuming. It’s always a risk asking actors to do accents but here it pays off  – every new voice a member of the cast takes on rounds out the world a little more. Bishop ensures that every character needs to be there, while the actors ensure that every character entertains. 

What truly brings the play together is the music. Sound designer Nat Grant knows exactly how much to play: when there should be silence and when a soundtrack could bring it all together. This show feels cinematic thanks to the music and the projections, and one could easily forget they are in a cramped theatre. 

I Shot Mussolini is a show for lovers of modern history. Production company Le Poulet Terrible have staged an idiosyncratic play that is both dramatic and whimsical, and never feels like it is too much.