Bonnie and Clyde Review

Nottingham Theatre Royal – until Saturday 18 May 2024

Reviewed by Amy V Gathercole


Richard Davenport

“If you’re seeking a departure from jukebox musicals, enjoy drama, and crave a different type of show, Bonnie and Clyde is for you”.

Bonnie Parker (played by Katie Tonkinson) and Clyde Barrow (portrayed by Alex James-Hatton) are the infamous and reckless couple who raised hell across America in the 1930s.

Their electrifying chemistry is evident from the outset, a vital element in a fast-paced and racy story like theirs. Intimate scenes require the audience to believe in their desperation and desires and both actors convincingly deliver throughout the drama.

The narrative takes its time to establish characters and circumstances, but once it steps on the gas, it hurtles forward at breakneck speed. The love story between Bonnie and Clyde unfolds against the backdrop of crime and violence, yet remains tender and captivating.

Bonnie dreams of fame, fortune, and becoming a Hollywood actress. When these two dreamers meet, attraction and curiosity ignite between them. Clyde, a young man down on his luck, idolises outlaws like Billy the Kid and Jesse James. His love and skill lie in ‘driving like the devil’ and he has no intention of leading a mundane life, regardless of the consequences or casualties.

The show delves into family relationships and the struggles of Depression-era USA. We meet both sets of parents, who simply want their children to be safe and return home. However, Bonnie and Clyde rebel against their parents’ small-town lives, choosing a path of danger and excitement.

The decision to reveal the end of the play at the start of the performance can often be considered controversial, but it works well here. The immediate urgency grips the audience even before they meet the key characters. While their eventual fate looms, the fun lies in discovering how they got there.

After a psychological and physically damaging stint in jail, Clyde rapidly progresses from hold-ups at local stores to robbing banks nationwide. Bonnie’s unwavering love for him leads her to follow wherever he goes, especially when her name starts appearing in the papers—her dream of stardom finally within reach.

Clyde’s brother Buck (Sam Ferriday) and his religious wife, Blanche (Daisy Wood Davis, my favourite performance in the whole show), remain a constant presence in the background. Blanche promotes godly family life, while Buck struggles to leave Clyde’s fast-paced world and be the man she needs him to be. Davis’s rendition of “You Love Who You Love” and the reprise with Tonkinson evokes shivers.

In the current world of cost-conscious theatre and touring, Bonnie and Clyde features outstanding video projections by Nina Dunn. Her work vividly captures the drama and details of Depression-era America, enhancing the storytelling in a unique and impressive way.

The show combines toe-tapping numbers with beautiful, heart-wrenching songs and duets. Its popularity is evident as it continues touring the UK until October 2024, having left the West End to huge applause.

If you’re seeking a departure from jukebox musicals, enjoy drama, and crave a different type of show, Bonnie and Clyde is for you.