Saturday, January 28

Domitius – Camden Fringe Online

Revamping Roman history for a modern audience, Domitius bursts with energy and electrifying rock musical scores. Expect the unexpected from Domitius Production Collective LLP!

Making its Camden Fringe debut, the musical is available to watch online and follows the vain Roman Emperor Nero (also known as Domitius) and his ambitions to seek life as a poet and performer. However, thrust into power prematurely the audience, and history, bears witness to his descent into despotism instead.

Featuring a roll call of names from Rome’s historic hall of fame – Seneca, Octavia, Agrippa, Poppaea and Nero – Domitius offers accuracy in events and finds a lively, original way to portray the period of 1st Century Rome. The internal conflict of Nero is one which cuts across time and cultures and into the core of what it is to be human. Is it not part of the human condition to be torn between duty and passion? To dare to dream only to find reality must come first?

Despite his eventual tyranny, you cannot help but feel a connection to Nero as he tries to navigate life.

The writing (Henry Gu Cao and Lux Knightley) is strong and compelling. It’s pacy and crammed with creativity, leaving the viewer engaged throughout. There’s poetry, singing, dancing, rap and clever plays on cultural references including “I think I’m a diva, therefore I am a diva” Nero Café, and a number of nods to 70s and 80s music anthems. Composers Lux Knightley and Luke McCormick have created a soundtrack that’s a fusion of styles and echoes all the pomp and energy of the Roman Empire itself.

Something about this production is reminiscent of early filmed Classical productions in the simple staging, musicality and strength of talent on display. In modern theatre terms, it has the drama of Phantom with the likeability of Joseph.

Although it’s well worth watching and original in its approach, it is sometimes hard to follow the storytelling because of the pace and the musical scores occasionally come across as a bit too ambitious for the vocals. Given the production was filmed in August 2021 and many theatre productions have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, these are minor things. They could also be related to how the audio has been developed for digital viewing. The type of scores included within Domitius are full-scale, open range songs which are best suited to viewing as a live audience and the online show does give a strong impression that this production would work well in theatres.

Considering this is a debut piece of work from the writers, the overall quality is high and doesn’t disappoint the audience. It is easy to forget that Domitius has not had the huge budget behind it that many West End musicals have, yet overall, it provides entertainment on par with those that do.

Showing as part of the Camden Fringe Festival until 28th August 2022, follow Domitius on Twitter for information about further performances.

Reviewer: Ezzy LaBelle

Reviewed: 20th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★