Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 9 April 2018

Review: Devil with the Blue Dress at the Bunker Theatre

Until 28 April 2018

No shoes: Francesca Peschier reviews a play inspired by the Monica Lewinsky scandal through its costumes

Francesca Peschier
Devil with the Blue Dress at Bunker. Photo: Helen Murray

Devil with the Blue Dress at Bunker. Photo: Helen Murray

It’s the story of how a dress nearly impeached a president

Except it’s not.

A pantsuit

Double breasted, pale shell pink

Strikingly similar to one I own from H&M that I like to wear when I’m pretending I’m Elle woods

Flat pointed shoes

Hillary Clinton showed us a rainbow of brightly coloured pantsuits during her election campaign. In What Happened? she describes them as a ‘uniform’, one that worked as a ‘visual cue’ to tell potential voters that she was ‘different from the men but also familiar.’ Flora Montgomery’s is also different but familiar, her Hillary and her suit muted, dialled down to pastel shades. Basia Bińkowska has an eye for detail in her costume choices, the tiny buttons at the sleeve and the pale clean footwear suggest money for high quality fabric and taxis.

Montgomery asserts her place, steadfast in her practical footwear on Bińkowska’s white platform set. ‘This is my play,’ she says.

Except it’s not.

Fitted pencil skirt, smart shirt

High heels, black with rounded toe

Later Kevin Armento’s dialogue will be explicit as to this: ‘It’s called the Monica Lewinsky scandal.’ Daniella Isaacs is uncannily like Lewinsky, our titular ‘Devil’. In she clicks on stiletto heels, fitted silhouette appearing from Tashomi Balfour’s swirl of jazz like a film noir cliché. She’s here, she means business. 

Block heels, square toe

Betty Currie (Dawn Hope) is efficient and she is loyal. Her shoes don’t make noise, all the better to sneak 22-year-old interns out the back of the Oval office. She’s seen a lot, has Currie, and we get to know this in her brief ‘this is my life’ monologue that is more interesting than a thousand under the desk blow jobs.

A blue dress

New

90’s style, soft looking fabric, round neck, slightly full skirt

No hard edges

Unlike Lewinsky’s smart earlier attire, it’s not a dress that looks work appropriate. It’s cute, unintimidating, willing. If her pencil skirt was expensive perfume, this is a good scrub with soap and water. I can believe that a woman who wore this dress wrote letters addressed to ‘Dear Handsome’.

Pale blue jeans, Boyfriend fit

Sneakers

All round good blonde American kid Chelsea (Kristy Phillips), trying to get her boyfriend to stop tickling her whilst she’s on the phone to her mum, ‘Dad is like sooooo embarrassing’. She’s right. He really is. 

Two night dresses, cheap looking polyester posing as satin

Bright turquoise and black

The president’s wife and the president’s mistress.

Widecut trousers

Scarf knotted like a Boy Scout

Linda (Emma Handy) was only doing her duty, she reckons, helping her pal Monica protect herself by taping their conversations. Two finger salute and Scouts’ honour, up the Republicans.

A blue dress

Crumpled, stained, but not taken to the dry cleaners

Hung on a graffitied wall

Better keep it says Linda, just in case.

Cashmere, camel and expensive

Pearls

No shoes 

No shoes and nowhere to go. Joshua McTaggart’s direction is static, doggedly meta, the ‘we know we’re in a play’ shtick reducing the characters to little more than talking heads by this point. I suppose there’s something here about bared feet and bared souls, but you know what you really get when you walk around minus your shoes? You get grubby. And all the cashmere in the world can’t stop this being a grubby story about a man’s grubby deed.

A blue dress

Steamy, steaming inside a clear plastic evidence bag

No shoes

Linda, Betty and Monica have all lost their shoes too. Like MMA fighters ready for the grapple, they circle each other with pedicured toes poised and ready to spring.

No shoes

Sneakers and the youth they represent discarded, Chelsea shouts over them and her scream is a rare moment of cutting to the point. All this pain stems from her father and his power kink. ‘He and his men have made fools of you,’ she snarls. How do you rise above this shit? How do we become better than this?

It’s the story of how a dress nearly impeached a president

Except it’s not

It’s the story of how women love power and men love power, and especially power over women. It’s the story of a man in a suit, a man in another suit. The man isn’t even there, he is voiced by the women, sometimes with a microphone, sometimes without. It doesn’t really matter which, he is always amplified over them.

Hillary Rodham didn’t always wear pantsuits. She wore round glasses at law school and striped trousers and miniskirts. At Trump’s inauguration, she wore white. I don’t know if Betty Currie still wore pearl earrings when she worked at the Peace Corp or if Chelsea Clinton was still into stonewash by the time she got her MPhil from Oxford. I don’t know if Monica Lewinsky wore blue when she tweeted #MeToo, nearly twenty years after she (literally) aired her dirty laundry.

Devil with a Blue Dress is a story we already know and we keep telling it at the expense of a wider wardrobe.

Devil with a Blue Dress is on until 28 April 2018 at Bunker. Click here for more details.  

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Francesca Peschier

Francesca is a freelance lecturer, reviewer, and AHRC funded PhD student at University of Arts London. where her research examines the relationship between scenography and identity in Liverpool. A former model maker and set painter, she still manages to keep her place on the Society of British Theatre Designers committee. She is the founding editor of JAWS, the Journal of Arts Writing by Students published by Intellect. When not writing about or watching theatre she concerns herself with running a croquet society and back-combing her hair to desired Dolly Parton heights.

Review: Devil with the Blue Dress at the Bunker Theatre Show Info


Directed by Joshua McTaggart

Written by Kevin Armento

Cast includes Flora Montgomery, Daniella Isaacs, Emma Handy, Dawn Hope, Kristy Phillips

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