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Review: Bonnie and Clyde at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Katie Tonkinson - Alex James-Hatton - Bonnie and Clyde. Credit Richard Davenport

Bonnie and Clyde are holding up the Wales Millennium Centre this month. Get ready for this cult-sensation, and the winner of Best New Musical (What’sOnStage Awards 2023) after two fantastic seasons in the West End. This production is ready to Raise a Little Hell in Cardiff.

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Champion Barrow will always be one of the most infamous criminal couples in America.

For those who don’t know the story of Bonnie and Clyde, the production provides a fair bit of background about their early days, more than what you see in the headlines. This was great and we ended up learning lots about this dangerous duo. 

Katie Tonkinson – Alex James-Hatton – Bonnie and Clyde. Credit Richard Davenport

The couple were both born in Texas. Bonnie, 19, a part-time waitress and amateur poet, was already married, though her husband’s in prison for murder. Clyde was 21 and a bit of a bad boy, who is in and out of prison for relatively low level crimes such as burglary and auto-theft. 

Bonnie and Clyde, accompanied by Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law, went on a crime spree during 1932 – 34, spanning almost 21 months, during the height of The Great Depression. Betrayed by a friend on May 23rd, 1934, they were eventually stopped by the police in an ambush along the highway. 

When attempting to escape the posse, composed of police officers from Louisiana and Texas, the officers opened fire. Bonnie and Clyde were no more, they would have been killed instantaneously by the barrage of bullets.

With that, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s crime spree, spanning several states and claiming about a dozen lives, finally comes to an end.

The performance starts as it ends, with the dramatic barrage of shooting of Bonnie played by Katie Tonkinson, and Clyde (Alex James-Hatton) in their vehicle.

They play the part of criminal lovebirds well. We see Bonnie’s transformation from wanna be movie star to someone so love smitten, she’s willing to smuggle a gun into prison to aid her boyfriend’s second daring escape.

Sam Ferriday – Catherine Tyldesley – Buck and Blanche. Credit Richard Davenport

Catherine Tyldesley – best known for her role in Coronation Street and participation in 2019 Strictly Come Dancing – fills the role of Blanche, Clyde’s sister-in-law. Blanche’s approach to helping her husband Marvin ‘Buck’ Barrow is very different to Bonnie’s way. You’re goin’ back to jail, describes Blanche’s intentions and how she doesn’t want them to live their lives on the run and in hiding.

Jaz Ellington takes up the role of Preacher, who has a captivating voice, bringing some good old American gospel to the musical. 

The songs are catchy and upbeat, in Picture Show, you learn all about how Bonnie has dreams of being ‘just like Clara’, a movie star. Clyde, on the other hand, has always dreamed of ‘living the life of an outlaw’, just like his idol Billy the Kid.

Accompanying the cast’s powerful vocals is a live band, and boy was it good to hear them lead by Issie Osborne. Nothing beats live music in theatre.

Theatre continues to evolve and with that come many new and wonderful ways to incorporate technology within a performance. We’ve noticed a real transformation over the last few years, seeing the difference a digital background makes; from the illusion of driving to a change of set, without the need for hefty items to be moved or suspended/sliding flats.

Bonnie and Clyde company. Credit Richard Davenport

A production like this really is a team effort from both the cast and crew. Zoe Spurr, Tom Marshall and Nina Dunn absolutely nailed the lighting, sound and video designs. Philip Witcomb does an amazing job of not just the set but costumes as well. The costumes for Bonnie in particular are spot on. If you look at the old photos and compare them to the ones used in the production, it is difficult to spot the difference.  

Bonnie and Clyde is a clash of an old infamous story mixed with the new technologies of theatre production.

You can understand why such a story has been adapted for the stage. Ivan Menchell, Don Black and Frank Wildhorn have shown in their production that there was so much more to Bonnie and Clyde than the crimes they committed. Above all else, it is a love story, a story of the lengths family will go to, in order to protect each other. 

The songs, dances and all the hard work from the cast and crew truely made you feel a part of the story. Definitely one for the adults with some racy content, though a well timed blackout leaves the rest up to the audience’s imagination.

Age guidance: 12+

Contains: flashing/ strobe lights, loud bangs and strong language

Start time:

Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm

Wednesday and Saturday 2:30pm

Running time: approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes (including one interval)

Bonnie and Clyde is showing at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday, 30th March. 

For tickets and pricing information, please visit The WMC website here.