The Passion of Bonnie and Clyde is Leeds University Open Theatre Society’s statement first production to in-person theatres, after what has been a tough year for theatre groups and theatre audiences alike.
Written by Ejiro Raye, the play can be described as a real crowd pleaser. An enjoyable, hour-long ride which clips quickly with its dialogue, and asks the audience to laugh along with it. Its central theme grapples with a classic male-female relationship dynamic confidently, as it presents the conflict that many couples have undoubtedly faced – the first ‘I Love You'. Albeit in a less relatable scenario, hours before a fatal bank robbery. The plays runs with
absurdity as Bonnie (Hannah Whiteway) and Clyde (Victoria Iliffe) continue to bicker and squabble whilst attempting to threaten a Bank Clerk (Alicia Edwards). But when Bonnie is accidentally shot by the Bank Clerks’ boyfriend (Harry Daisley), the group is forced to deescalate as the harsh reality of their actions become apparent. The shooting acts as the catalyst for the rest of the events, and what ensues is a hilarious sequence of scenes as the remaining trio try to navigate the situation.
I don’t know if it was just my two-year long drought of the theatre experience which served to heighten this aspect for me but regardless, the whole play felt incredibly inclusive. Rather than aiming for a ‘fly on the wall,’ atmosphere, it openly invited the audience to laugh at the situations presented. The jokes landed consistently and worked well to keep the audience engaged. The play maintained momentum, never overselling a moment. This was a real strength, but at moments it felt afraid to slow down and just hand over to its actors. The intimate conversations between Bonnie and Clyde, as well as Bonnie and the Bank Clerk do well to give us a sense of the relationships in the limited time, but if anything, I wanted more of them. I’d have loved for the play to be a little longer, or those moments a little slower to allow for a breath between the fast-paced comedy dialogue.
Besides this, The Passion of Bonnie and Clyde plays smoothly and with great pacing. In equal parts due to the tight script, and the overall production. The show is elevated completely by the performances of the cast who seemed confident and familiar with the material. First-show nerves seemed replaced with excitement and allowed for an engaging mix of comfort and spontaneity. Alicia Edwards deserves a special mention for a fantastic incarnation of her character. Her timing and tone were pitch perfect and she understood the scripts intentions and played well into the self-aware sections adding an extra layer of implication to many of her moments. Meanwhile the whole cast performed with the feeling of an established production, giving the perceived unplanned moments even more impact. At one moment Clyde raises his fist to Bonnie and her head jerks down a second to protect itself and then up again to look into Clyde’s eyes. A small thing that you cannot guarantee will come out on the night, but an example of the many human moments that appear and remind you that despite its quick jokes and absurdist nature, this show is at its core a story about this couple’s relationship.
The play is fundamentally a funny, engaging hour featuring stellar performances and a sensitive love story. The sub-themes tread some interesting ground regarding the role of women in heterosexual relationships. And there is an overarching theme of love as deserved by all that is promoted successfully throughout. The play was incredibly well received by the audience and gained a standing ovation immediately upon culmination. Ultimately, The Passion of Bonnie and Clyde is a fantastic re-introduction to Leeds student theatre which showcases the real talents of its members, the small team allowing the clear passion for the project to shine through and define the whole experience.
The Passion of Bonnie and Clyde is playing again tonight (Friday 22nd) and Saturday 23rd.
Get tickets here.
Review by Nadia Ribot-Smith