Politics and the theatre have a lot in common when you pause to think about it, so it makes perfect sense that Kevin Armento should make the connection so visible in Devil With The Blue Dress, receiving its world premiere at The Bunker Theatre. The lead character openly tells us that this is “her play”, but then again, the subject isn’t known as the ‘Hillary (or even Bill) Clinton Scandal’, so it seems only fair that Monica Lewinsky also gets a say.
As do three other women affected by the affair, including the President’s daughter and secretary. Devil With The Blue Dress delves into the memories of these women and allows the characters to debate with each about how they really felt at the time. Drifting like memories between two time lines; the affair and the aftermath.
That famous blue dress with a significant stain, coupled with the equally famous denial is probably one of the most remembered political scandals of the 20th century. With impeachment proceedings underway, it gave the advent of internet and cable news, plenty of material to work with. So, there’s a good chance we all have an idea what happened, but Armento takes it a step further imagining the conversations behind closed doors, the private thoughts, feelings and motivations, then holding it all up to scrutiny, right there within his own play.
The first ten minutes tick along without too much incident, some handy introductions of the main characters and a reminder of the role they played at the time. The concept is pretty thoroughly explained; it’s a play and “thing’s aren’t totally realistic,” large chunks are set to the sound of a saxophone, and while beautifully played by Tashomi Balfour, I struggled to concentrate on the dialogue as a result. Suddenly, it starts to get interesting, and you find yourself having little revelations and as it transitions to the near voyeuristic, Devil With The Blue Dress is now a gripping and intense exposé.
The cast do a good job of putting just enough attributes in to their own characters to make them recognisable without becoming caricatures, particularly Daniella Isaacs and Kristy Philips. At times they are required to give voice to other characters, most notably the President himself and perhaps deliberately, this feels less authentic.
Unsurprisingly given the title, this comes across very pro-Hillary, the mirror held up to her actions seems to be a little rose-tinted in comparison to the other characters. While politics sits at this plays heart, it takes a back seat to the adulterous affair, it’s a serious topic but with a few lighter moments, although one or two cigar jokes fell flat.
With Devil With The Blue Dress, Joshua McTaggart has directed an enthralling piece of drama, the references to Shakespeare and frequent asides reminds us that this is a theatrical production, but nevertheless manages to keep us gripped in the unfolding storyline of real-life people.