BONNIE & CLYDE
by Adam Peck.
Theatre 503 above The Latchmere Pub 503 Battersea Park Road SW11 3BW To 5 February 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Sun 5pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7978 7040.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 January.
Off-duty criminals seen in lyrical depth.
This both is and isn’t what might be expected. Yes, Clyde Barrow looks down the barrel of a sawn-off shotgun, and Bonnie Parker pulls a pistol on him. And, placing the scene after 10 June 1933, Bonnie has a wounded leg from battery-acid after a car accident (Clyde could shoot straighter than he sometimes drove).
Bonnie and Clyde were gangsters who hit celebrity twice. A private photo, found in a police-raid and sent round America on the newly-created newswire (the YouTube of its day), showing her with cigar and gun, established her reputation. The poetry-writing ex-waitress denied she smoked cigars, and there’s no actual evidence she killed anyone herself. But after that photo it was the legend that got printed.
Their story was taken up in Arthur Penn’s 1967 film, which was to Hollywood what Look Back in Anger had been to British theatre, introducing a new generation, style and attitude. Adam Peck’s play has Clyde refer to the pair in terms of Penn’s portrayal as Robin Hood figures attacking the banks (a minority target for them).
This play, developed by its writer with Bristol-based Fairground Theatre, is hardly action-packed. It’s a ruminative piece, developing from the start Clyde’s sense of imminent death (he has a huge back wound) as they’re holed-up in the kind of flatland shack some Steinbeck family might have deserted. Several times Clyde muses on mortality, while Catherine McKinnon marks-out these moments’ unreality by a physicality denying Bonnie’s damaged leg.
The 75-minutes include plenty of pauses and inconsequential-sounding talk. A ‘choices’ game reflects ironically on the holed-up existence, culminating in a fantasy marriage inspired by Bonnie’s reflection on Marie Tullis, who wore her wedding-dress to the funeral of the fiancé they’d killed.
This Bonnie & Clyde explores a genuine love between contradictory personalities, with a beautifully-sustained lyricism, evoking the sense of people cut-off from, yet unable to ignore, the wider world. Eoin Slattery’s quiet, reflective yet practical Clyde, and McKinnon’s volatile, yet imaginative Bonnie (Parker was a poet beside being a moll, and very much in love) are pretty well as perfect as might be imagined.
Bonnie: Catherine McKinnon.
Clyde: Eoin Slattery.
Designer: Chris Gylee.
Lighting: Matthew Graham.
Sound/Music: Peter Swaffer-Reynolds.
Assistant director: Emily Thompson.
Assistant designer: Ruby Spencer.