Review: The Syndicate at Milton Keynes Theatre

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A PLAY set in 1960s Naples is hardly the one to attract a sell out audience to Milton Keynes Theatre.

The vast majority came to see acting legend Sir Ian McKellen perform. The Syndicate is a comedy which tells the story about the respectable face of the town colliding with the criminal underworld.

McKellen role as the malevolent Don Antonio Barracano is one of the most fascinating characters ever committed to the stage. At one moment, he is ruthless, dispatching people as a nuisance, the next moment he helps out a couple who have not eaten in days.

This show is constantly full of surprises with the first moments showing a woman laying out table cloth apparently ready for dinner. Then enters a man with a bullet in his leg and a rather painful operation to remove it shown in full gory detail.

There is plenty of star performers, vital in such a character driven piece, with Michael Pennington playing the doctor proving why he has had such a long and varied theatre career.

The Syndicate may not be entirely suitable for a mainstream audience as it perhaps a touch too long and a little slow to get going. However, it is worth sticking with the show because McKellen shows why he is one of the leading actors of his generation. And to see a performance such as his is the best reason to see The Syndicate.

Review by Steve Mills

The Syndicate is on at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday. Tickets for the show can be booked by calling the box office on 0844 8717652 or visit