In 70 action-packed minutes, Bones highlights mental health issues in sport, looking at one man’s struggle to reconcile his inner mental turmoil with the physical demands expected of his devotion to the game.
Full of movement, but emotionally static.
Studio 90 at the Park Theatre is a postage stamp in comparison to a rugby field, yet the green floor accommodates some vigorous movement sequences, during the game and in training. Tackles, passes, scrums, and tries contrast with choreographed, slow-motion sequences. These set pieces are a highlight of the production, though some lines are lost as they are shouted over the action.
Director Daniel Blake brings to life the banter, wit, and repartee of the changing room that’s crucial to Lewis Aaron Wood’s script. Name-calling, jovial abuse, and Trumpian ‘locker-room talk’ seems to be the stuff that could be hurtful no matter how much the guys put on a brave face. But that’s not the way the narrative goes.
Instead, it slowly emerges that something is wrong with Ed (Ronan Cullen), whose passion for the game is waning. He considers extreme measures to sustain an injury that will keep him out of the biggest match of the year: the Regional Cup semi-finals. Though talent scouts will be there, offering the possibility of being picked up by a professional team, Ed has clearly lost all interest.
An injury would be an unquestionable excuse for not playing. It would also mean avoiding the real reason. Exactly what is going on in Ed’s head remains vague, but we know it is due to a family death.
Ed’s father (James Mackay) seems to share his son’s suffering. But while he asserts that he’ll “always be there for him” (there are many more cliches such as this), he seems able to do little. Questioning by the Doctor reveals little more and certainly doesn’t provide a comprehensive way out of the situation. Samuel Holt as Team Captain, Charlie, and the person to whom Ed seems closest, conveys the dilemmas of a man who inevitably becomes embroiled in the situation as he tries to reconcile the needs of the team with Ed’s welfare.
Bones shows that though mental health issues can be triggered by an event, depression is something that can build almost imperceptibly over a period of some time. It’s a difficult story to portray on stage, but one that is the mission of Redefine, partnering with rugby’s leading mental health charity, LooseHeadz to present this play.
The play might be full of movement but in its current form it's emotionally static. Never mind the ball, what’s needed is a tighter grip on the storyline: a harder-hitting and more impactful approach.