Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Meet Bill Clinton as he loosens the shackles, shoots first and asks questions later in what is billed as a part historical, part fantasy TED talk.
Bill Clinton is at his most insouciant as the audience files in. His relaxed greeting makes each person feel they are the most important on the planet at that particular moment in time. No wonder Clinton man made it to the top, becoming leader of the world’s largest free nation. He could charm birds from the trees.
Positioned as a part historical, part fantasy TED talk, Bill Clinton Hercules looks at Bill Clinton’s life, from the difficulties he faced in his early, fatherless years through to challenges on world and local stages that dominated his two four year terms in office. Some time is spent on Clinton’s known love of Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, allowing Clinton to show how he drew on the work’s characters to help him solve crises in his political and personal life. We also explore how fatherless boys are forced to look elsewhere for male mentors, in Clinton’s case to Kennedy, King and Mandela.
These prove interesting insights into Clinton’s personality as does an exploration of his relationship with and admiration of Israel premier, Rabin. And we get to touch on one of his more unlikely alliances, that with George Bush Senior. Two people from opposite ends of the spectrum that remain voices of reason, still capable of commanding respect in America’s increasingly dysfunctional political environment.
It would have been interesting to have spent more time exploring these facets of Clinton’s life and perhaps a little less on a factual recounting of events in Kosovo, Iraq, Kuwait and a stream of other international and domestic crises (including the notorious Lewinsky affair). It was useful to be reminded of what happened during the eight years Clinton inhabited the White House, but most of the audience had lived through this first hand and probably didn’t need reminding in such detail.
There was also a tantalising insight into Clinton’s views of Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank throughout his Presidency. Again, I was left wanting to know more about this – either through Clinton’s directly expressed views or the writer’s musings.
Perhaps, though, as someone with a great interest in politics and economics, I am being too pernickety. The question of balance is for the author to decide and Rachael Mariner has clearly expended considerable effort in researching this piece.
Bob Paisley’s performance as Clinton is polished from start to finish and keeps the audience on the hook. Paisley’s physical similarity to Clinton is an important facet in creating this impression and a lot of work has also gone into developing that Arkansas drawl which, with mannerisms and gait delivers a believable finished article. Just like the real Clinton, Paisley’s mask never slips. Not even for a moment. But then all politicians are actors to a degree and it’s this attribute that many political commentators felt got Clinton off the impeachment hook hung out for him by Kevin Starr.
Overall, an interesting seventy minutes, and a masterful piece of acting from a consummate performer. Work a look.