Pros: A meticulously choreographed piece of art. Excellently executed and magically mesmerising.
Cons: On paper, perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea. Approach with an open mind.
Thom Monckton and Gemma Tweedie created Only Bones in an empty aircraft hangar in Paris. The handout given to each audience member describes a bizarre creative environment; freezing cold and with constant harassment from goats. One of the pleasures of the piece is that it is clearly a creation born from painstaking care, love, and an awareness of what people enjoy seeing. With no script, and barely any vocal interruptions, Only Bones is a visceral experience, mesmerising in its use of small movements and the most basic of sets. The stage consists of a circle on a one metre squared stage; there is a hanging lamp, a chair, and a desk lamp. The rest is down to Thom Monckton, who trained at circus school and must be related to a lava lamp. His ability to create scenes of beauty, comedy and occasionally horror, using every inch of his body, is incredible. He is a credit to his profession, and an absolute delight to watch.
Normally in a theatre review, you try not to spoil the plot too much, but this show doesn’t have one, so I can be forgiven for going into detail. There really is no other way of conveying the kind of moments you can expect. Highlights include: one hand getting annoyed by the other hand for obsessively scratching at a piece of wood (awful noise); three feet fighting over space in a bed; and two hands making their way out of their car and up a flight of stairs to make sweet, sweet, hand love. Yes, it is unusual, but thank heavens because it is also hilarious.
The show is light-hearted but also has moments of darkness and a sense of isolation haunts the performance, too. The use of sound in the show is genius. Tuomas Norvio has designed a soundtrack that could not be more fitting to the tone of the show. It is so meticulously coordinated that the sounds are often almost unnoticeable, absorbed into the atmosphere of the action. The effect is fascinating. Your reaction as one member of a wider audience is intrinsic to the magic of the performance, and the audience’s unified reaction becomes an additional element in the soundscape, which is quite unnerving. You almost feel choreographed into the show, which breaks the solitary mood established towards the beginning and invites you into the performance. Only Bones is not solely to be observed but experienced.
Only Bones could be likened to the experience of looking through a kaleidoscope; seeing variations of the same movements makes the show hypnotic. The steady pace of the performance could not be achieved without its slick staging. Props appear almost supernaturally; the lights black out for less than a second at a time, and when they come back up Monckton is positioned as though he has been waiting there for hours. The operator of the show, Gemma Tweedie, provides crucial support throughout. She sits at the side of the stage and invisibly makes sure that everything is where it needs to be. Her stage presence is not distracting and she is invaluable to the impeccable continuity of the piece.
If you need a pick-me-up, see this show. You will feel all the feelings. You will also be asked to make animal noises, which is extremely good fun. Honestly.
Performer: Thom Monckton
Created by: Thom Monckton and Gemma Tweedie
Booking Link: www.sohotheatre.com
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking until: Saturday 4th February