2018’s Answer To Shakespeare?
Flesh and Bone, Elliot Warren’s award-winning play, is an absolute pleasure to watch. He has beautifully combined poetic words with a graceful flow and rhyme, often in iambic pentameter, to create a modern London sound with Shakespearean echoes.
The darkness of the stories and jokes amidst misery draw you behind closed doors to see hidden identity, illness and financial struggle. Look deeper into the maze of East London and truly appreciate the hardship and challenges of the people who live there.
The play is narrated by the cast alongside the scenes they’re in, and inner monologues break up stories of their day to day lives. Each character has secrets that they hide from the others in the concrete jungle due to the shame, guilt and embarrassment of how they really feel, or who they really want to be. This not only adds depth to each character, but makes you feel a new level of sympathy.
The dialogue may be complex but the cast connect to it in a way that creates a moving and vivid experience for the audience. The performers’ understanding and delivery of the dialogue makes for an effortless listen.
The whole cast are engaging, with Elliot Warren and his co-writer, Olivia Brady, playing the central, equally loving and dysfunctional couple so convincingly. But Alessandro Babalola stands out with his beautifully painful portrayal of Jamal, a man wishing he could escape his life of selling “herbal remedies” and attempting robberies. Though, as he puts it, he’s only delivering these “shady deals as these are the cards I was dealt”.
From a production point of view, the staging is simple with minimal props, perhaps a necessity given the size of the space. The lighting is particularly effective which is important, giving the sparse set and props.
Such an appropriate story for all that has happened in London over the past year. Warren wants you to FEEL something, to have the cast so in your face that you’re forced to listen. You’re so engrossed that you forget about anything else going on – that is the power of this play.
Flesh and Bone gives a voice to post-Grenfell, Brexit, austerity London. It gives a voice to those who would otherwise be unheard. It’s just a beat away from being a rap. It is 2018 in the flesh!