Before the performance at Tristan Bates Theatre, the 16-strong company of San Domino entertain theatregoers in the bar with some jaunty patriotic songs, with which they lead them into the auditorium. It’s somewhat akin to the chilling scene in Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret when the Hitler Youth sings “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”.
Inside the auditorium, we learn more about how a fascist state treats those for whom, in their opinion, the future does not belong – including the “degenerates” who are unwilling to perform their duty of providing their nation with sons and daughters.
San Domino is an original British musical, written by long-time friends (and former bandmates) Tim Anfilogoff and Alan Whittaker, about the real-life Mediterranean island prison of the title, where, under Mussolini in the years leading up to the Second World War, hundreds of gay men were imprisoned. Anfilogoff first learned about San Domino from a 2013 feature on BBC Radio Four’s From Our Own Correspondent, when a reporter attended a ceremony on the island to unveil a small plaque on the island that commemorates the victims and promises that Italy does not forget.
In fact, like many of collaborationist activities of the Vichy Government in France, this stain on Italian history is largely forgotten – a point immediately underlined by an Italian couple in the audience yesterday who said they recently vacationed on the very island, hadn’t seen the plaque and had no idea that it was once a prison.
For the post-show discussion I chaired after Saturday’s matinee, I was joined by Alan and Tim, as well as San Domino director Matthew Gould, musical director James Cleeve and cast members Mark Stewart, Matthew Hendrickson, Alexander Hulme and Joe Etherington, with additional contributions from co-stars Christopher Laishley, Andrew Pepper, David Gibbons and Roger Parkins.
San Domino is staged during this year’s London Pride month. Other post-show discussions scheduled include ones with Sarah Day, author of Mussolini’s Island, and another with the UK’s leading LGBT and human rights activist Peter Tatchell.
SAN DOMINO runs until 30 June 2018 at Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, London WC2H 9NP, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced £12-£17.50. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!