The Kings Head Theatre Pub, “founded in 1970 as the first theatre pub since Shakespearean times“, houses Linnie Reedman’s new musical Bonnie and Clyde, with music and lyrics by Joe Evans.
Bonnie dreaming of fame and fortune on Broadway ends up finding her name in the public eye, not for her acting career but for being half of the legendary American murdering duo who went on a killing spree during the 1930s. This new adaptation of the tale, advertising itself as a love story, also highlights how the hunger for fame and money can lure anyone to commit unimaginable crimes.
I am always excited by new writing and fringe theatre, but for me the piece, lacked clarity, precision and detail. I felt key sections of the story were rushed or not given enough thought. For instance WD Jones, a young ‘lookout,’ played by Christopher Burr, was shot brutally in the chest and imprisoned, but within seconds of this scene ending, was back with the duo with no real explanation of how this occurred. This shooting happens at the end of Act One, and at the beginning of Act Two WD Jones is found by the police, still only having recently been shot he was short of breathe and in agonising pain, but when going into song Christopher sang the song ‘Bloodshot Heart’ beautifully, the singing didn’t match the story-telling. Another issue during this song was when Emma-Jane Martin playing Blanche Barrow, joined in with a strong soulful voice, entering from the back of the auditorium stopping half-way, but performing the song in complete darkness disconnecting the audience from the story-telling. I do commend Emma-Jane Martin’s skills as an actress, as during Act Two, when blind-folded and in prison, she had the audience on the edge of their seats – a real highlight of the production.
Gary Tushaw played the part of Ted Hinton: a complicated character battling with keeping the law while also having a personal relationship with the duo, was a stand out performer in this production. His final monologue was captivating, moving and effortless.
Samantha Louise Clark, playing the part of Bonnie performed with poise and elegance. Tom Sword, showing off his skills on the saxophone was great at being ‘in the moment’, driving the piece forward and building tension.
There were times when the piece leaned towards the idea of Actor-Musician, where actors accompany themselves during their own songs, an idea which can be seen in the popular musical ‘Once’. There were only hints of this but I would have loved to have seen more of this throughout. It was comical seeing actors being arrested and then seeing them sneak back into the ‘band pit’.
Storytelling is key for a show like this and being able to carry the story during the songs is vital. At times the story became secondary, meaning the songs felt quite disconnected. This may be a fault with the book, but the reasons to go into song didn’t flow or were unclear.
This is a show with real potential but the priority needs to be in the story-telling. Capture this element and this production could be innovative and exciting.
Review by Paul Toulson
The King’s Head Theatre
115 Upper Street
Islington, London N1 1QN, United Kingdom.
21 August to 21 September
Tuesday – Saturday 7.15 pm
Sunday Matinees 3pm
Extra matinees Saturday 21 September 2pm
Friday 30th August 2013