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Bones By Lewis Aaron Wood at Park Theatre

Lewis Aaron Wood’s rugby-themed four-hander about masculinity and mental health, directed by Daniel Blake, shows promise as a piece of choreography that embraces the forms of rugby with elegance and strength but ultimately falls down as a work of drama. The lofty intent of destigmatising men’s struggles with mental illness is so on-the-nose that the 70-minute play comes across like an after-school special or a public service announcement rather than a sports-based choreo-poem that could sit amongst successful entrants to this theatrical space.

Bones - credit Charles Flint.
Bones – credit Charles Flint.

We meet Ed (Ronan Cullen), who is impressively physically imposing as an icon of masculine athletic ‘strength’ and grief-struck following his mother’s death. He is surrounded by a cast of teammate characters who each occupy an almost cartoonish rendering of the limited range of ‘acceptable’ emotional expression the story tells us to which men are restricted by society. Unlike Ryan Cameron Calais’ For Black Boys who have Considered Suicide when the Hue Gets Too Heavy, however, we only ever hear from Ed and the other characters are simply foils to his repression and pain. When he seeks ‘relief’ through self-harm, there is no conflict or complexity and the workaday script plods along until a predictable ‘healing’ is encountered.

In moments when the rugby scrum is visualised – with grace, beauty and fierceness – there is an electrifying intimacy to the performance. Nearly worthy of the Royal Ballet, the choreography is brutally gorgeous and delivered from a few feet away which makes it exciting, unpredictable and breath-taking in its control. But these tableaux, with heavy-handed underscore by sound designer Eliza Willmott, are relied on too much to expose anyone’s inner world, leaving the rest of the dialogue stilted and barren. And the only inner-world we even look at is Ed’s. Castmates Ainsley Fannen (Will), Samuel Hoult (Charlie) and James Mackay (Ollie and Ensemble) form an impressive sculptural presence as the scrum but are given such a thin and one-dimensional script that there’s not much more there.

However, perhaps if considered as a rough draft to be workshopped and explored from the other characters’ perspectives – maybe even considering that the teammates do accede to an outrageous request – a more meaningful dramatic concept could emerge. There are flashes of promise in this production but, despite the novelty of locating rugby on stage in a black box, it’s not a game-changer.

3 Star Review

Review by Mary Beer

Bones is a dynamic and bold physical theatre production that ignites the collaboration between rugby and theatre to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health. It pairs electric new writing, with high intensity set pieces that immerse you into the spectacular world of rugby.

Ed is used to getting injured playing rugby, but he’s never faced an injury that he couldn’t see before. When his mental health makes it feel like he’s taking on an entire rugby team by himself, will his teammates stand by his side or remain seated on the side-line? Under pressure to lead his team through to the regional semi-finals, Ed feels the full weight of expectation and hope, and it’s impacted him in ways that he could have never imagined.

CAST
ED | RONAN CULLEN
CHARLIE | SAMUEL HOULT
WILL | AINSLEY FANNEN
OLLIE/ENSEMBLE | JAMES MACKAY

CREATIVES
WRITER | LEWIS AARON WOOD
DIRECTOR | DANIEL BLAKE
PRODUCER | YUSUF NIAZI
SOUND DESIGN | ELIZA WILLMOTT

Redefine and LooseHeadz in association with Park Theatre present the World Premiere of
Bones
By Lewis Aaron Wood
Directed by Daniel Blake

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Author

  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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