DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

In the Bones – Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

Writer: Cody Daigle-Orians
Director: Joe Geddes
Lighting/Sound: Joseph Arnott/Bernie O’Hara
Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Given that the performances in the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s Syngenta Cellar were both either completely or very nearly sold out, it’s a pity that Root & Branch Productions’ In the Bones is only receiving three performances, the final one at Harrogate Studio Theatre.

Written by American playwright Cody Daigle-Orians in his second collaboration with Root & Branch, In the Bones is a thoughtful and ingenious play that receives a similarly thoughtful production by Joe Geddes, smoothly integrating film and live action. The audience is involved in the ideas behind the play; more nuanced interpretation would help involvement in the characters.

In June 2013 Luke, a young soldier back from Afghanistan (Jesse Wright, seen only in the film sequences) has just committed suicide. His mother Dee (Julie Root) is too distraught to maintain normal human contact with her daughter Chloe (Sherelle Armstrong) and her sister Kate (Prue Griffiths), up from Bristol for the funeral. Dee banishes Luke’s lover, Ben (Ben Sherlock), from the house and from their lives.

Three more scenes carry the story on for three more Junes, sometimes in unexpected directions, such as a meeting of Kate and Ben in Bristol, and introduce a further character, Kenny (Luke Goddard), a fellow-soldier of Luke. In between these scenes we see Luke’s world before his death, as filmed by himself: high-spirited teasing with Ben, jolly scenes with Ben and Chloe, the difficulty of coming out to Dee, her lack of acceptance of Ben.

The questions multiply. Why did Luke kill himself? Was it problems with being gay or maybe the effects of his Afghanistan tour of duty? Gradually facts emerge about a traumatic incident there which only some of the characters know about – one of the convincing features of the script is that all the characters have only a partial view of Luke. And how long does grief and mourning last? For that matter, who is more selfish, Dee, obsessively hoarding her version of Luke, or Kate and Chloe, more interested in themselves and the present?

These are relevant questions, smartly thought through, but the dialogue presenting them is a bit schematic. Throughout this is a weakness: if Daigle-Orians wishes to establish conflict between characters, too often normal dialogue instantly erupts into in-your-face shouting between the characters which subsides once the point is made.

The film is pleasingly realistic in its liveliness and lack of polish, though Dee’s house is surprisingly palatial compared to the basic acting area, pretty much unfurnished, but with many photographs of Luke – a nice touch. Julie Root’s tormented Dee and Sherelle Armstrong’s likeable Chloe stand out in a reliable cast.

Playing at Harrogate Studio Theatre on June 18, 2019 | Image: 

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