The story of Bonnie and Clyde’s blood-flecked romance is well known; they robbed banks, murdered at least nine people and died as they had lived, by the gun. But this production forgoes the bigger picture to give us a sensitive and tragic glimpse into the domesticity of the outlaws’ lives.
The infamous pair are held up in a small barn with little more than a bag of clothes, a sawn off shotgun and bottle of bootleg whisky. We are displayed moments of intimate humour as they play childish games and taunt each other and the tenderness which must underlie all good love stories. But this is a vitriolic relationship, as close to hitting as it is to kissing. You can be in no doubts, these are a murderous pair.
Ultimately as the drama unfolds this barn becomes a place of limbo, a brief respite from the storm when these two lovers can reflect on their lives. Eoin Slattery’s Clyde is clearly haunted by their past while Catherine McKinnon subtly gives Bonnie a childish naivety to their crimes. She giggles with glee as she reads of their exploits in the paper, imagining herself as a beloved starlet rather than a heartless killer. It is clear; this self-serving image is to protect her from the truth of what her life has become. Even as she wails at Clyde for not wanting to be buried beside her you can sense her detachment from reality, turning death into a mere domestic argument.
But it is Clyde’s denial of their inevitable fate which gives the play its traction and trajectory. Her transformation from manic delight at their crimes to the realisation of what is facing them is beautifully realised. And this is the crux of the piece; the haunting realisation that these two lovers
are set on death. Writer Adam Peck is keen to emphasise that it is their choices which have led them here and the play’s resistance in making these two outlaws victims is a good one. When Clyde says at the end of the play ‘death is a part of what we do’ we now know he means their own as well as those he has mowed down.
Although Slattery’s lyrical soliloquies punctuate the play nicely, foreshadowing their inevitable fate, McKinnon’s dancing is perhaps a little superfluous. The music is not quite right either, although the growling vocals add to the atmosphere, its echoing of the characters' words at the close almost boarders on the mawkish.
Yet Bonnie and Clyde is a compelling piece of theatre, a brooding and lyrical exploration of the choices these murderers made and the death which chased them.
By Jon Davis
Bonnie and Clyde is at Theatre 503 at The Latchmere, 3 Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BW until the 5th
February. Tickets £9-14.