A Double Bill Of One Man Shows At Park Theatre: Review

Bill Clinton Hercules and Absolution, Park Theatre ★★★★☆

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 98 months ago

Last Updated 21 May 2016

A Double Bill Of One Man Shows At Park Theatre: Review Bill Clinton Hercules and Absolution, Park Theatre 4
Bob Paisley in Bill Clinton Hercules at Park Theatre

How do you fight injustice when everybody around you is doing their best to ignore it? Why do our leaders often make such terrible mistakes? Is it possible to gain a position of power and still retain your integrity?

These, and many other crucial questions focusing on the morality of leadership, are explored in two excellent one man shows currently playing as a double bill at Park Theatre.

Both directed by Guy Masterson, Absolution by Owen O'Neil is a tale of one man trying to take on paedophiles within the Irish Catholic church singlehanded. Bill Clinton Hercules by Rachel Mariner gives us a private audience with the disgraced American president on the eve of his wife's latest presidential bid.

These portraits of two men from vastly different backgrounds are nevertheless connected through the common theme of power, and the million dollar question of if and how it can be used for the greater good.

At first glance in Absolution, Nathan (Owen O'Neil) seems a cold-hearted murderer who describes in chilling and exacting detail how he has killed several known paedophiles. The overwhelming physical force and determination needed to kill someone in cold blood is highlighted by the fact that he mimes out the killings as he describes them.

As his story continues however, it is disturbingly easy to sympathise with his aims as he delves into the story of the horrible acts committed by his victims. O'Neil is a very good storyteller, keeping us gripped with a fast-paced narrative which keeps us guessing until the very last moment.

Bob Paisley is marginally less watchable as Bill Clinton and the longer, second play drags after a while. Nevertheless the idea is good. Bill Clinton, fervently backing his wife's latest presidential campaign, gives us a potted history of his time in office and his thoughts on how the world has changed since he stepped down. Just like in reality, he never lets the politician's veneer slip from his slick speech and, as only Clinton could, his sentences are laced with saccharine sentiment, crooked smiles and drawling southern accent.

There is the inevitable reference to Monica Lewinsky and at times the narrative slips into ground that has been covered one too many times before. It is made more interesting, however, by the premise that Clinton is taking us through the story of his own presidential career through the lens of his favourite figures from the Greek myths — seeing himself as a modern day Odysseus.

The brute physicality of Absolution and the carefully constructed spin of Clinton's speeches give the audience much food for thought. Does Nathan's cause excuse his actions? What truth is there in Clinton's slippery sentences? Two striking examples of the politics of morality.

Bill Clinton Hercules and Absolution are on at Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP until 11 June. Tickets £25 (£18 concessions). Londonist saw these shows on a complimentary ticket.