Thursday, 5 July 2018

REVIEW: Flesh and Bone at the Soho Theatre

Flesh & Bone. The basic composites of every living human being on this planet. If you rip the skin and personality away to reveal the raw foundations, we are all the same. So why do we judge? Why as humans do we have this innate desire to push people into boxes or into societal ranks? Why do we deem certain people above or beneath us... better or worse? ‘Flesh & Bone’ at the SOHO Theatre is here in unapologetic ferocity to unearth the brutal truth of working class existence.

Terrence lives on a council estate with his brother Reiss, their Grandfather and Terry’s girlfriend Kelly; whilst below them lives Jamal, the local drug dealer. The hair raising 80minute play rushes through their lives, the societal stereotypes they are inherently forced to maintain and their deep desire for something greater. The writing is unbridled, visceral and evocative. Elliot Warren dances between brash colloquial vocabulary and poetic Shakespearean beauty. What hits the most is that his writing is honest and real. You sit there and feel sick knowing at some point or another you’ve had these feelings about this “class” of people you’ve assumed you’re better than, but why? Because you were more fortunate to be given more opportunities? He highlights the damaging concept of privilege without having to hammer it home, it naturally falls over you, and you sit there and relate to it guilt ridden. He brings the humour and heartache with wonderful nuance, pace changes and articulation are wonderfully crafted by the company of five. This is kept in check by Warren and Brady having directed it themselves. It is fluid, explosive and still: not an easy combination to master, but master it they do especially Warren who manages to nail acting, writing and directing the entire piece.

The play is reliant on the chemistry of the cast, which work a wonder here. Elliot Warren as Terrence is a firecracker, a perfect microcosm of the council estate, a lad, the braun, crass, unforgiving and formidable. He’s the type of guy you wouldn’t cross down an alley, he owns that, but when he realises this also extends to his brother, he feels a loss that Warren so wonderfully portrays, and questions whether if his own brother fears him, is this the reason he will never achieve anything more? Nick T Frost playing the Grandad provides a lot of the comedic moments, he sits comfortably here, really knowing how to hone a joke and land the sentiment as well. Alessandro Babalola plays Jamal with excellent balance, an imposing drug dealer who struggles to find himself who intimidates you completely, but also shreds your heart when toxic masculinity forces him to hide his sensitivity. Olivia Brady weaves the pattern of Kelly beautifully, her gear changes are brilliantly executed, her sense of comedic timing is on point and as the only female has this inexplicable authority that grounds the testosterone. The real diamond in the rough in this show however, is Michael Jinks’ Reiss. Jinks naturally bounces between the likeable and ferocious, he’s able to evoke humour whilst also narrate faultlessly. His presence on stage is captivating and he manages to embody the text wonderfully. He really ignites the more internal moments and his battle with owning his sexuality and still being part of this gritty world, this desperate need to conform, really resonates and forces you to understand that the differences between you and them are minimal if none at all.

Poetry, is the most important part of this show. The writing. The rhyming. It
demands you to understand that we’re all on the same level, that we all have the ability to intellectually articulate ourselves if given encouragement and direction and opportunity. I was in all the top sets at schools, I had people in my class who would achieve A after A, they were from council estates and less fortunate upbringings but societal attitudes forced them to remain there, and in a privileged opinion, not better themselves because they never believed they could. In the flesh and the bone of that black box studio tonight, as they shouted at the council in despair at the prospect of being forced from their homes, we were all forced to realise that the sad truth for most of them is they’ll never escape, and well... we haven’t exactly helped them to. 

Review by Ben Kipkiss 

Rasting: ★★★★★

Price of Ticket: £14
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