Third Person: Bonnie and Clyde Redux

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Madeleine Morley

at 11:18 on 23rd Aug 2011

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Just in case you were hoping it was, this is nothing like the classic Faye Dunaway 1967 film version of the story of Bonnie and Clyde. What it actually is sounds dodgy on paper, but somehow really works. It's the story of the notorious bandit lovers being told by a couple of Art Attack children's tv-presenters were they to be teaching a 3rd grade chemistry class. Using live video cameras, a projector, a jam donut, and a few tiny toy model men (and one woman for Bonnie), Gillian Lees and Andrew Westerside explore novel forms of storytelling, and in doing so energetically test the boundaries of conventional theatre. The two 'presenters' of the retelling are direct about the fact that they are merely "humans" playing "humans", that they are made out of H2O and C, just as Bonnie and Clyde and the rest of us are. We are all made of flesh and we all experience pain and pleasures and have dreams but eventually turn to dust. We begin as disjointed cells and end as disjointed cells. This in itself is an interesting comment on acting, how characters are brought to temporary life through the flesh, perception and movement of humans playing humans.

The scientific, metaphoric approach to telling this particular story of heroism and villainy is particularly effective as it explores the psychology of what made Bonnie and Clyde turn to bank robbery and murder. The eerily robotic Gillian and Andrew, made of the same substances as Bonnie and Clyde, demonstrate how easily they, and us, could have fallen into the same pattern and lifestyle. A particularly moving, yet subtle moment involves Gillian squeezing lemons and adding them to water and sugar as she recites a letter that Bonnie had written to Clyde, gently signifying how when life gave them lemons they made lemonade. This is a cleverly scripted tale that combines evidence, rumors, mathematics, love, murder, life, death and donuts, and ambitiously pursues a new kind of multi-theatre. This the kind of inspired, experimental show you come to Edinburgh hoping to see because Edinburgh should be the place for finding memorable new ways of telling old stories. Third Person:

Bonnie and Clyde Redux does this beautifully and with great imagination.

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Rowan Evans

at 11:31 on 23rd Aug 2011

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‘They are made of carbon and sulphur, like steel, like a gun’. Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were human: they loved, they died. It’s a chemical reality. Gillian Lees and Andrew Westerside are open, funny and genuine, and I can feel something of what this show might be about. The closest thing we can get to seeing any human story is to see its elements embodied by another. A breath is equivalent to any breath; pain to pain; the jammy smile of a girl who loves to eat donuts. It’s subtle, and could easily pass you by if you turn up wanting fixed roles and filmic action. But it works.

The pair really do talk to us and each other. When someone in the audience sneezes, Lees pauses to say ‘bless you’. To begin I find their stichomythia unnatural, but it characterizes the forensic parts of the show, while other moments unwind into natural dialogue. I suppose I like to think this is more unscripted than it really is; a frank discussion about killing has to have been rehearsed to some extent, and I know for some this exchange is a little forced. But so neatly does it coil back into the script that Proto-Type couldn’t have done it another way.

Using film cameras, an OHP and tiny figures the media is, if a a little fiddly, wholly original. With the lens focussed on paper, the performers’ hands scribble out the maths of the thing: heights, body counts, days, atomic numbers. A rickety equation pulls up the number of shots that killed them, 50. Sound matches the pace, music intricate and locomotive or still and unobtrusive.

Writing this I find myself on Google searching photos of the real couple - it’s an odd experience, sepia originals are mixed up with the Hollywood reconstructions. There are several of the shot-riddled car with the seconds-dead. The unit ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and its life are infamous - that’s what makes it a story - but save these documents very little is really known. I find Proto-Type’s approach so convincing because it is so speculative. There’s something very honest about that.

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