Jane Upton’s Bones is at the King’s Head Theatre for three performances this October. An angst-ridden monologue told from the perspective of a teenager who has had to deal with a troubled upbringing, and is trying to cope as best he can. Directed by Ian Robert Moule, there has been real care and attention poured into this harrowing play, and it pays dividends in the resulting production.
At nineteen years old, Mark is patiently waiting on his next benefits handout. He’ll use it to buy McDonalds, cigarettes and a prostitute down a back alley. He doesn’t have much going for him; his single parent mum is a smack head and he doesn’t see his grandad, the only father figure in his life, very often now. To top it all off there’s a new baby in the house and all he can think about is how to get rid of it.
In a classic monologue set-up, the action is happening now, but it’s all resulting from events in the past, events which are traumatic for the central character and are drip fed to us in regret filled snippets. There are moments which are funny, but can only elicit a wry smile in the overall context they are placed.
As Mark, Dominic Thompson is filled with pent up rage, it spills out of him as he recounts moments from the characters childhood. His face twists and contorts with tense aggression as he struggles to contain the violence coursing through his veins. But, Thompson also manages to show a softer side to the troubled teen, there are moments when you could genuinely cry for the character and that’s partly down to the writing, but mostly down to the performance.
At first, the staging feels a little chaotic; props fall off the table or chairs are kicked over seemingly completely at random. But then, that discarded prop finds its purpose and is in exactly the place it needs to be. It becomes clear this staging is far from chaotic, it has been planned down to the last detail and gives the overall performance a very polished look.
Bones has enough content and drama to be a full-blown play with multiple characters and cast, but it would lose its intimacy and visceral appeal. The writing feels genuine and that comes across in Dominic Thompson’s performance. Bones is raw and gritty, leaving you feeling like you need a shower when it’s over, but it’s an absolutely gripping monologue that cannot fail to leave you emotionally drained.