Thursday, 5 April 2018

REVIEW: Devil with the Blue Dress at The Bunker

It is 20 years since President Bill Clinton was impeached under two articles for his response to the allegations over the "Monica Lewinsky Affair", and this play explores the impact the scandal and his defence had on five women at the heart of the case. Kevin Armento has written a sparkling political thriller about the events which not only tells the story but also neatly implies it had an impact on the Trump : Clinton presidential election battle of 2016 , and of course adds Trump to the long list of US male politicians caught out by their sexual indiscretions. The first Act explores the facts of the case and how these were perjured in his defence and the second Act how the second charge of obstruction of justice was exposed. The format and style works very well, acknowledging regularly and amusingly that this is a play, Hilary Clinton's memory play, with the other female characters taking centre stage from time to time to control or takeover the story .Bill Clinton himself is given voice by three of the actresses in turn adopting his deeper gravelly Arkansas tones.

Hillary is played with a steely charm by Fiona Montgomery so that we easily imagine we are listening to the Lady herself. We see her turning a blind eye at first out of loyalty and trust , grappling with whether to leave or not and finally trying to turn it to her political advantage. As she acknowledges it becomes a question of whether women are perceived as objects of sex or objects of power, or both . Monica, played by Daniella Isaacs, is the besotted intern who becomes Bill's object of sex, and finds herself abandoned by him and becoming the centre of the story rather than him. 

Kristy Philippa delightfully captures the youthful innocence and her own emerging sexual awareness with the awkwardness of being confronted by her parents sexuality as their daughter Chelsea. We can see how she is impacted by the news and teased by friends by the infamous denial that her father gave in January 1998 that he did not have "sexual relations" with that woman. 

The other two characters are Betty (Dawn Hope), his loyal secretary caught in the middle of the three Clintons and Linda Tripp (Emma Handy) the republican whose evidence finally exposes the truth. Together these five woman work extremely well and slickly to present the case, and slip easily and clearly without costume change into the other characters. 

The play is simply set by Basia Binkowska using the Bunker space effectively
with a small central platform, a yellow front cloth and two small illuminated doors to contain Monica's souvenirs from the relationship. They use the raised sides of auditorium as additional playing areas. The production is accompanied by Tashomi Balfour on saxophone throughout. Curiously Director Joshua McTaggart makes a feature of the women's feet, with the cast standing with their shoes showing behind the curtain as we enter and then playing the second half in bare feet. 

Overall it creates a powerful piece of drama, clearly draws out the impact the events had on the five women, each embarrassed in different way by the story, but one feels rising above it and for Hilary giving her a stronger platform to pursue her political career.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Unreserved | Price of ticket: £19.50
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