Warts in a doughnut – what an absolutely delicious image. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what’s been happening just across the road: the Whitley Annual Residential Theatre Society has been rehearsing to put on their musical this year, Bonnie and Clyde.
It seems to be the year of the musical – in addition to Whitley’s, University College performed Avenue Q only a couple of weeks ago (think R-rated Sesame Street or Muppets) and we’ll be debuting Fame! in less than a week (get keen and buy tickets).
Before we get into the deep analysis stuff: I saw the Saturday matinee performance, and the tech team and band were great, the singing sounded really good, and the dance numbers were very tight – so kudos to director Ryan Jones and producer Clare Browne.
As an introduction to those not familiar with the story, Bonnie and Clyde were a pair of criminals in America during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Much like Australia’s very own Ned Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde have been controversial figures ever since they first made newspaper headlines – seen as heroes, Romeo and Juliet, and violent felons all at once.
Whitley’s portrayal picked up on all of these elements, though to varying degrees. Caleb Ballinger gave an excellent performance as Clyde Barrow, showing his descent from oppressed youth to almost sadistic killer. Morgan Rayner performed a fantastic Bonnie Parker, showing a great mix of vulnerability, starry-eyed naivety, and ruthless selfishness. The supporting cast was also first-class – Nick Packer (Buck Barrow – Clyde’s brother), Kelsey Rettino (Blanche Barrow – Buck’s wife), and especially Lewis Forrester (officer Ted Hinton) brought their characters to life and out from Bonnie and Clyde’s shadow.
However, Bonnie in particular was quite heavily romanticised – in reality, she had ‘hybristophilia’: an attraction to violent outlaws which made her constantly push Clyde into more and more dangerous crimes. Whitley’s interpretation was far more Romeo and Juliet – star-crossed lovers whose flame of love burns too hot, leading to their far-too-early deaths. That might be some people’s cup of tea, and while I still thoroughly enjoyed the performance, I would have liked to see a bit more grit and grime.