★★★★★ |  San Domino

San Domino is an island off the east coast of Italy that was once an island where people of a certain ‘way’ were exiled to by the facist Benito Mussolini government. He banished prisoners there to pay for their ‘crimes’ – some of the crimes being speaking out against the government. It was also a place where homosexuals were sent as well.

A new show by the name of San Domino beautifully tells this story that very few people are aware of.

Now playing at the Tristian Bates Theatre in Covent Garden, ten men, in 1939, are having a great time in a bar in Catania, Sicily. They have not committed any crimes, but a knock on the door will change all their lives forever. According to the government, they were degenerates because it is suspected they were homosexuals and thus were sentenced to five years. These men include men from all walks of life, including older Carlo (Matthew Hendrickson) and young handsome Claudio (Alexander Hulme). San Domino tells the men’s stories, through dialogue and music, in a show that is poignant, dramatic and superbly acted, especially when the show moves from the jovial atmosphere of the bar where the men are being themselves to the camp where they share bunkbeds and are kept under careful watch of the prison guard and the very mean chief of police.

Andrew Pepper is just superb as the androgynous Pietro, sensitive and always looking for love in all the wrong place, and Pietro never holds back and says what’s on his mind. The rest of the cast really work well together in a show that really is a must see.

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San Domino first previewed to an enthusiastic audience at the Courtyard Theatre in London, then played to a full house at the Arcola Theatre’s Grimeborn Festival in 2014. With Book & Lyrics by Tim Anfilogoff, and music composed by Alan Whittaker, with Direction by Matthew Gould, San Domino excellently tells the story of the one night in 1939 when many gay men were rounded up. It’s a story that should’ve been told years ago.

Photo provided by KWPR / Grant Neal & Joe Etherington