Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage, Thu 3 Mar
A disappointingly small audience enjoyed this excellent solo performance about the life of Bill Clinton. Based on a play by Rachel Mariner and directed by Guy Masterson, Clinton is played by Bob Paisley and he looks and sounds uncannily like him.
Starting from his small town origins in Hope, Arkansas it tracks the rags to riches story of a poor boy who made it right to the top. Along the way we learn that he met and shook the hand of JFK as a small boy and was, for a time, a bearded hippy speaking out against the Vietnam War. Clinton’s favourite book was apparently a play called The Cure Of Troy and the outline and moral of this story is entertainingly told. The political lessons learned in this tale were to become a benchmark for how Clinton wanted to live his public life.
However the realities of the presidency challenged the views of a man fired with idealism about what was best for the American people. What Bill Clinton Hercules does really well is show how the beliefs and principles of the individual are challenged by the realities of office, and can lead to making decisions that one thought they were never capable of. It’s an instructive lesson that shows that people in power are ultimately just human like the rest of us with their own hopes, dreams, and vulnerabilities. Detail of the behind the scenes squabbling at the Camp David peace accords were a humorous case in point.
We learn that among Clinton’s heroes were JFK, Martin Luther King, Mandela and Yitzhak Rabin; details are shared about his relationships with Rabin and Mandela. We can only assume that as the playwright was Clinton’s lawyer in the Lewinsky impeachment proceedings that much of these personal minutiae are true.
It was evident from early on that this production could only end with a big speech and it indeed came. Here I think the writing falters, and doesn’t quite match the expectations. But not Paisley’s performance. It’s a commanding performance and a great insight into the mind of a man who was once the most powerful man in the world. Paisley is charming and eloquent, the writing is conversational and instructive. And it really does feel like you’re learning about world events, world leaders, and America’s recent past from Clinton himself.
Bill Clinton Hercules continues at Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage from 9pm until Sat 12 Mar.
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