Gritty Theatre: Bones
Sunday May 28th
Vital, truthful, shocking and oh-so-very real: this is the theatre I live for.
This one-man piece by the Birmingham based company Gritty Theatre, written by Jane Upton, tells the story of Mark, a 19-year-old kid with a drug-addicted mum and a head full of bad memories trying to make sense of the suffering he has endured. This plot, as well as Gritty Theatre’s ethos to “reflect the concerns and issues of the communities that we live and work in”, had piqued my interest and drawn me to Burdall’s Yard on Sunday evening. And in both senses, the show did not disappoint.
Let me start by saying that this is not a show for the faint-of-heart. With profanity, nudity, simulated sex-acts and themes of drugs and violence, this hour-long monologue was so full of piss and vinegar that I swear you could almost smell it. However, with such a refusal to shy away from explicit content, the piece cannon-blasts us straight to the heart of the true pains, struggles and inner-thoughts of our neglected protagonist, in a manner which is as moving as it is shocking. Upton’s writing is slick and visceral, peppering golden touches of humour and joy within a pitch-black tale of childhood trauma. And these elements were profoundly magnified by the incredible performance of Dominic Thompson as Mark.
I can say in no uncertain terms that this actor is one to watch. Intense does not cut it. The breadth, speed and precision of Thompson’s acting was phenomenal, flitting in a seeming instant from childish fear to macho posturing, from an unfiltered ball of rage to a crumpled mass of tears, and all of it underpinned by authenticity and a commitment to portraying the true nature of a damaged working-class kid. With only chairs, a table, a glass of beer and the clothes off his back, Thompson not only commanded the stage and kept the audience gripped to our seats, but propelled us along a harrowing journey which revealed the immense depth of a character some in the room might have feared or loathed had they met him in real life. Such an ability to create empathy is nothing to sniff at. In fact, empathy is one of the key things art can help to build. And this show has it in spades.
Ian Robert Moule’s direction must be highly credited as well, not just for bringing such a performance out of Thompson, but also for his subtly brilliant use of choreography and space, creating striking moments of bold imagery while never straying too far from the reality of the piece. Precision, intelligence and attention to detail are clearly hallmarks of this director’s style.
The piece contained no music, a barren stage and a no-frills attitude. In fact, the technical elements were practically non-existent. But these were neither needed nor missed. With the triple-threat of Upton’s writing, Thompson’s acting and Moule’s direction, the performance alone was more than enough.
I implore you to watch this show, especially those who do not regularly watch theatre or think it is “not for them”. This show may very well change your mind. As Gritty Theatre say in their mission statement, “drama should not only change lives, but also be a part of everyday life for everyone.” This production makes a clear case as to why.
***** – 5 Stars