Review: Bones at Nottingham Playhouse

“I had this pet rabbit once. I used to hold it tight ‘til my knuckles went white. I held it tight so it couldn’t run. But it did. It dug itself out of the mud round the yard. I would have dug my way out and never come back if it wasn’t for her.”

Anyone who has spent time in Nottingham will no doubt recognise the central character of Jane Upton’s play Bones which was shown at Nottingham Playhouse last weekend ahead on its nationwide tour.

Inside a shabby house, nineteen-year-old Mark (played by Joe Doherty) delivers a terse, dramatic and engaging monologue which left the audience at Nottingham Playhouse on Friday night feeling liked they had been punched in the guts.

Produced by Fifth Word, this is a play in which the sense of deprivation hangs heavy in the air; at the beginning Mark tells us how much he wants to murder his baby sister, referring to her as ‘it’. His mum is a drug-addled prostitute and he has little escape from the claustrophobic world of living on an estate.

The only possible respite comes from Mark’s memory of a holiday in Skegness with his beloved grandfather and mum. He remembers going to the beach and drinking bottle after bottle of Panda Pop; but even as he reminisces about this time the reality of his mum’s addiction becomes heartbreakingly apparent.

Upton is a Nottingham native and her experience of growing up in the city shines through in the street names and references to Nottingham Forest. But the nihilism of poverty gives it a universality, underpinned by Doherty’s compelling performance.

Bones was a sell-out at last year’s Ednburgh Fringe Festival. It will be performed at Create at West Notts College in Mansfield on 10th October.

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