“This gets called the Monica Lewinsky Scandal. You made sure everyone knew my name.”
Devil with the Blue Dress by Kevin Armento, gets its world premiere at The Bunker Theatre in Southwark. Directed by The Bunker’s Artistic Director Joshua McTaggart, the play takes a look at the first American political sex scandal of the internet age through the eyes and ears of the women at its centre; Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Chelsea Clinton, Bettie Curie and Linda Tripp.
The play follows Hillary’s memories across two timelines, 1995 when Monica met Bill and 1998 when their relationship became public knowledge and almost brought down the president and the Clintons with it. Described as a theatrical battle, the five women tell their version of events. Bill Clinton is notable by his absence; the saxophone accompaniment from Tashomi Balfour is a nod to his love of jazz music and his words are spoken when necessary by one of the female actors.
As the women replay the events and challenge each other over what they did and did not do, we are forced to ask ourselves who is a hero and who is a villain in this tale. Even twenty years later, these events and their repercussions still have the power to intrigue and make us question our response to women seeking power and men who abuse it.
The set is simple; act one is against the backdrop of a heavy golden velvet curtain while act two is in front of a white wall scrawled with the infamous statement, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and the ever present blue dress, the evidence of Bill’s indiscretion that made it more than just a case of he said, she said.
The actors fill the theatre space, taking centre stage or speaking from the sidelines as their tales unfold. Flora Montgomery is pant-suited Hillary, owning the story with knowing asides to the audience and frustrated when Monica (Daniella Isaacs) appears to have her say. Isaacs embraces the role of Monica Lewinsky, initially the naïve intern swept away by the charms of the most powerful man in the world and later the woman scorned and betrayed. The Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, is played by Kristy Philips; her turns as Bill are especially well performed as she morphs from embarrassed teenager to posturing POTUS. Dawn Hope is Betty, Bill’s loyal secretary and keeper of his secrets at all costs and Emma Handy is Linda who befriends Monica and then betrays her confidence.
Even if you don’t remember much about this sex scandal, described by Hillary as the second worst thing that ever happened to her, this is a great telling of a compelling tale. Trump gets one name check but there are plenty of parallels here if you want to find them.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Helen Murray