The theatre of social struggle seems to be all the rage at the moment. With Jim Cartwright’s Road having just been revived at the Royal Court and Trainspotting performing another season at Edinburgh, it is becoming increasingly trendy to study the lives of the working-class. Having been under-represented both on the stage and in the audience for many a year, it seems that the industry is trying to repay its debts to a snubbed market. Unpolished Theatre’s Flesh and Bone continues this trend, giving a voice to the residents of a London council estate through semi-Shakespearean eloquence.
“a showcase of immense talent and innovation from [a] new company”
Expressing their innermost secrets with poetic lyricism, the script is a work of beauty. At times, I wondered if rather than original dialogue they were quoting Shakespeare and my knowledge simply wasn’t good enough to recognise it. However, with a hasty post-show Google of a few quotes, it turns out Flesh and Bone is entirely original, an impressive feat to say the least. As beautifully crafted as the script is, I do struggle to see why the choice was made to give Londoners such eloquent, crafted dialogue. It takes the edge off the sense of realism and grittiness which is the central theme of the production, replacing it with more impressive, but less expressive dialogue.
Script-work aside, this is a finely-honed production. The acting is superb, with Alessandro Babalola providing a stand out performance as Jamal, the thug of the block, who proves far more sensitive under the surface. The remainder of the cast give nuanced and considered performances, carrying their characters and their inherent emotional struggles with ease. The direction from Elliot Warren and Olivia Brady is inspired, melding moments of physical theatre into conventional dialogue with crisp precision. Flesh and Bone is not short of stylised sequences, but all work to great effect, never feeling shoehorned or pretentious.
Overall, Flesh and Bone is a showcase of immense talent and innovation from new company, Unpolished Theatre. This is an up-and-coming theatre company for the future, and I am excited to see what they do next.
Pleasance Dome, 2nd – 28th August 16:00
Image: Unpolished Theatre