Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Flesh and Bone

Elliot Warren
Unpolished Theatre in association with Eastlake productions
Soho Theatre

Olivia Brady, Michael Jinks, Elliot Warren and Alessandro Babalola Credit: Owen Baker

Set on a London estate, Flesh and Blood introduces the audience to a dingy world full of decay and despair but populated by characters with real ‘character.’

Devastatingly eloquent, Elliot Warren’s script fuses movement, monologues and group vignettes into a gritty yet Shakespearean explosion of life.

Terrence, Kelly, Reiss, Granddad and Jamal own the stage, commanding attention, pent-up frustration simmering, bravado engaged to the max.

With neck cricking, lip licking and muscle flexing, the men are tough, or at least purport to be; their behaviour learnt, masking their true selves. Kelly is brash, matching their intense energy, not afraid to raise her voice but perhaps to use it.

A lone chair makes up the set of this production and, thanks to the finely tuned choreography and highly descriptive dialogue, nothing more is needed. The audience is whisked from pub to London estate, crowded flat to sterile hospital. Classical music provides the counterpoint to the coarse and often violent movement.

This is not a piece that’s simply an onslaught however; the interwoven speeches sympathetically reveal the hope and fears of the characters, self-reflective conclusions and even a few confessions. Some add brevity to the gloom and some add depth, each changing the pace, altering the tempo.

Warren is a generous writer and each character is given a fair share of provocative lines. Michael Jinks is an intelligent but lost Reiss, Olivia Brady a mouthy but warm Kelly and Nick Frost a sleazy Granddad with a twinkle in his eye. Alessandro Babalola’s imposing Jamal is as threatening as poignant and Warren’s own Terrance a scrappy ball of energy, potential unfulfilled.

Highly comedic but also bleakly accurate, Flesh and Blood is a poetic and riveting glimpse into the lives of four characters shaped by their surroundings and hampered by social mobility. Performed with ‘bestial fire’ by the tight-knit cast, their fierce performances should provide plenty of talking points.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston