Bones at Park Theatre
Even in this age of acceptance, awareness and inclusion, men still struggle to vocalise their feelings when it comes to mental health. There is still the misguided mindset of what it is to “be a man” and an embedded belief that to be anxious or depressed is weak. The pertinent issue of male mental health is at the heart of Bones – a 70-minute piece of physical theatre that has been crafted in collaboration with the Rugby charity LooseHeadz.
Sport and theatre are not obvious companions. Recent successes such as Red Pitch at the Bush and the current Gareth Southgate drama Dear England at the National have proved the two marry well in exploring the concept of masculinity. Bones tackles this subject matter on the rugby pitch. Ed (Ronan Cullen) takes the physical injuries endured in the sport in his stride, but when it comes to unseen ailments he is at a loss as to what to do. Feeling pressured to “man up” and be strong, Ed struggles to process his mental health issues while saving face amongst his teammates.
In just over an hour, we are presented with an adrenaline-fuelled physical spectacle. With precise choreography and impressive physicality employed by the cast of four, audiences are gifted a true visual feast. This is, however, to the detriment of story. As much as we want to invest ourselves into the character of Ed, we are prevented from ever getting close enough to truly care.
The subject matter of mental health is incredibly significant given the staggering numbers of males who take their own lives. It is commendable that writer Lewis Aaron Wood casts a spotlight on this important topic and the cast all invest a great deal into their performances. Further character development and a more advanced plot would undoubtedly enhance the production, which, in its current form, feels more like a blueprint for a much greater, richer play. The committed cast elevate proceedings and the production feels urgent and timely – but unfortunately fails to leave the lasting impression a play of this nature deserves.
Images: Charles Flint
Bones is at Park Theatre from 5th until 22nd July 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.