Blending eloquent, Shakespeare-esque poetry with heaps of foul-mouthed language and a dash of cockney rhyming slang, Flesh and Bone is a feat of genius scriptwriting. The show follows the intertwining lives of five East Londoners – Terry, Kel, Jamal, Grandad, and Reiss – as they attempt to navigate a world of drug deals, sex chatlines, and rat infestations.

There appears to be real chemistry between the actors on the stage, making the characters’ rapport feel all the more believable. It’s the monologues, though, that really ensure Flesh and Bone sticks in the mind. Every character – when given the opportunity to take centre stage – bares every inch of their soul to the audience. They express their dreams and their deepest fears, they reveal all the intricacies and complexities of their lives. There’s a warm, emotional depth to Flesh and Bone that intensifies with every spilled secret and candid speech.

There might be shock and grittiness abound here, but there’s also plenty of humour. In one knee-slapping moment, Grandad doles out numerous one-liners, which briefly transforms the performance into a stand-up routine. Flesh and Bone proves itself more multidimensional still when it delves into explorations of classism and sexuality; the show stands as an observant, lexically marvellous slice of social commentary.

The star of Unpleasant Theatre’s masterpiece has to be the impossibly clever combination of Shakespearean language and Cockney slang that’ll have you in awe of writer Elliot Warner. The acting is consistently passionate and powerful, too, and each actor’s movement is calculated and choreographed to perfection. Flesh and Bone’s message is also unequivocally important: it’s one of community spirit, and finding a voice when it seems like no-one is listening. Every single component of the show is a joy to behold, and the five-person cast more than merits a five star review.

Words: Morgan Laing 

Photo: Heather Pasfield 

Flesh and Bone, Pleasance Dome, Aug 21-28, 4pm

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