Bones

As the audience files into the dark Rialto theatre space, a lonely figure paces across the stage, dressed in baggy tracksuit bottoms, a grubby white T-shirt and baseball hat, angrily drinking a pint of lager and staring with hatred at a pram. This vessel of pent up rage is nineteen-year-old Mark, played with complete conviction and confidence by Dominic Thompson.

Spoiler alert: it’s not a comedy. There’s nothing funny about despair

The object of Mark’s hatred is his baby sister who never warrants a name, born to his heroin addict mother, also nameless but described in stark, dysfunctional detail. He hates this baby for making his mother’s already chaotic life worse and spends the first few minutes of Bones explaining the various ways and methods he has dreamed of to dispose of her. None of what he describes should be funny, but somehow the writer, Jane Upton, manages to dredge up small pockets of humour from this young man’s desperately depressing life, even if the laughter also feels uncomfortable.

Through flashback scenes we get a glimpse of Mark’s life before his mother’s addiction took hold, although this life was in no way idyllic. The childlike Mark describes with absolute glee the simplest of family events, romanticising what should be normality. But Mark’s life is far from normal, although depending on your life’s circumstances and the circles you mix in, more common than we would like to admit. Just take a look at the streets of any city in the UK and you will see hundreds of Marks: gangs of disaffected youths damaged beyond reason by a dangerous home-life mix of anger, addiction, alcohol and abuse.

Mark describes a family holiday to Skegness with his mother and grandfather when he is an eight-year-old boy. At first he tells the audience of his excitement at the prospect of days at the beach, but the idealistic reality very quickly turns into an absolute nightmare of blood, brutality and bile. The clever use of simple props sees a stool become Mark as a toddler on his grandfather’s shoulders, to the unresponsive arms of his drunken mother as he tries to dress her, and a simple grey hoodie transforms into a prostitute.

Dominic Thomspon owns the stage as the damaged, sometimes sensitive, but ultimately doomed Mark and delivers his heartfelt hour-long monologue with brutal precision and bitterness. The flyer warns there are graphic scenes, and the effect of seeing Thompson’s full frontal nudity is surely designed to shock.

Birmingham based Gritty Theatre seems bent on a mission to educate audiences to the harrowing subjects contained in Bones. Gritty by name and gritty by nature, this type of theatre is not for everybody, but for those with a wish to stare into the depths of society’s bleakest existence, Bones certainly presents an extremely realistic image. Spoiler alert: it’s not a comedy. There’s nothing funny about despair. 

Reviews by Christine Kempell

Underbelly, Bristo Square

Austentatious

★★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Emma Sidi: Faces of Grace

★★★★★
theSpace @ Jurys Inn

The Big Lie

★★★★
Underbelly, George Square

Siblings: Acting Out

★★★★★
Rialto Theatre

Martin Lingus

★★★
Brighton Spiegeltent / Rialto Theatre

After

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Mark, 19, cares for his drug-addict mum and her baby. He has to make a choice that could change things forever, as he is living a life he never signed up for. But how far will he go? A poignant, emotionally charged monologue about trying to find your place in a world that doesn’t want you. Mark's tale will chew you up, spit you out, and make you wonder why you cared in the first place. Shortlisted for Brighton Fringe Award 2015. "Funny, upsetting, shocking, very, very moving... a must see" (Ed Fringe Review), "Utterly convincing... ambitious, impressive, and humbling" (Broadway Baby).

Most Popular See More

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £45.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Heathers The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets