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Review: East End vernacular meets Shakespeare to create a revealing lyricism in Flesh and Bone, Soho Theatre

Its rich lyricism is matched by an angry energy but also a sense of love, loyalty and camaraderie.

Elliot Warren and Olivia Brady in Flesh and Bone  credit of Owen Baker
Elliot Warren and Olivia Brady in Flesh and Bone. Photo: Owen Baker

Flesh and Bone is an everyday tale of 'oi oi savaloy' East End working classes but told with a revealing Shakespearean lyricism.

It opens with 'What a piece of work is a man' but then uncouples from Hamlet's speech to talk about power, greed, love, hate, lust and fear.

Clever writing

Words like 'maketh' and 'coinage' mix with 'rock and roll' giving it the feel of something that is both familiar, contemporary and yet of another time. This is the cleverness of Elliot Warren's writing. 

Warren delivers the speech as Terrence, one of those lads we'll discover who reacts with his fists a little bit too quickly. He is a wide boy and the antithesis of the sage, considered poetry he speaks or is he?

 

Flesh and Bone  credit of Owen Baker
Cast of Flesh and Bone. Photo: Owen Baker

He lives in a tiny flat in a tower block with his girlfriend Kelly 'Kel' (Olivia Brady) who works dirty chat lines, her Grandad (Nick T Frost) who hankers after the days when people dressed with class and his brother Reiss (Michael Jinks) a Soho barman.

Jamal (Alessandro Babalola) is their neighbour, Terrence's pot-dealer and sometimes partner in crime.

Side order of banter

They scrape together enough money for a drink and something served with chips, a side order of rough banter and simple satisfaction.

Except the soliloquies say otherwise, delving beneath the surface to reveal hidden desires, ambition and loneliness.

It is a play that doesn't so much ask you to look beneath the surface but takes you there painting a picture of people trapped by stereotype, expectation and circumstance.

Doesn't demand pity

The play doesn't demand pity, despite its everyday tragedy and that is as it should be, Terrence et al wouldn't want it.

Its rich lyricism is matched by an angry energy but also a sense of love, loyalty and camaraderie.

Flesh and Bone is exposing and revealing not least in the way it elevates the stories of those so often overlooked and dismissed.

See it at the Soho Theatre upstairs until July 21 and it is one hour and 20 minutes without an interval. I'm giving it five stars.

 

 

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