at Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 26th October 2010
Although the actions of the infamous crime duo Bonnie and Clyde are well documented and have been retold numerous times, we know very little about their personal lives. Snippets of information about who Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were as individuals survive, but not enough to create a full image. Fairground’s production of Bonnie & Clyde tries to delve deeper into these two anti-heroes, and at the same time manages to create an evocative and beautifully imagistic piece of theatre.
We are introduced to the couple as they work their way through some argument, and at once realise they are real people. Granted, they drive around the Wild West thieving from banks and slaughtering innocent people, but we are forced to remember their intimate and passionate private life. Monologues are interspersed throughout the play, and we slowly realise that what we are witnessing are the events leading up to their death. If it weren’t for the prescient monologues, we wouldn’t know this, but this through line keeps the writing engaging as the couple struggle to understand one another.
Here is an example of how best dance and movement can be best incorporated into theatre. Under the direction of Tid, we watch Bonnie and Clyde fall and glide across the set during moments of calm. Unlike in many similar productions, however, this doesn’t detract from the narrative; these additions feel wholly warranted.
Images are used to great effect throughout. Instantly the scene on stage of a decrepit barn and thickets of off-white wheat evokes simplicity and an almost ideal world. A neckerchief is repeatedly thrown, and watching it slowly descend is both mesmerising and beautiful. Simply visual scenes such as these allow us to see the peace which the pair find in their relationship, away from their unspeakable crimes. Matthew Graham’s warm lighting design is used subtly in the small space, and the piece would be at a loss without Peter Swaffer-Reynolds’ extraordinary music.
Catherine McKinnon and Eoin Slattery as Bonnie and Clyde bring intensity and clarity to their respective roles. McKinnon is almost child-like, not completely understanding the situation in which she and her partner find themselves, and living constantly in a romanticised version of the world. Slattery broods, and is clearly a disturbed soul, but at times manages to bring some normality to the part. It is at these times, when they seem like an everyday couple, that are the most heart-wrenching.
Peck’s script, with the help of Tid’s skilful direction, asks us to question received knowledge about public figures. While it does not forgive or excuse the actions of Parker and Burrows, Bonnie & Clyde makes sure we see the human, private side to this story. The result is a beautifully poignant and inventive piece of storytelling.