Flesh and Bone review at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh – ‘riotous, rollicking portrait’
Unpolished Theatre’s Flesh and Bone barges its way onto the stage and stays there, shouty, gobby and full of heart until the last, painting a portrait of an east London council estate as rollickingly funny as it is punchily poignant.
Writer and co-director Elliot Warren has penned a bunker-busting hotchpotch of monologues and short skits, smashing together an archaic lyricism and a contemporary, expletive-filled vernacular. It’s Shakespeare via Steven Berkoff. Jim Cartwright’s Road, shifted 250 miles south to a grimy, gritty East End tower block bubbling with life.
The five-strong cast, including Warren and co-director Olivia Brady, are an odds-and-ends family of geezers and gobshites. Tel starts fights in pubs, Kel earns cash talking dirty down the phone to perverts and the council – the bloody council – are intent on razing their home altogether.
But Warren undermines stereotypes as much as he exalts them. Reiss hides his sexuality behind a tracksuit, Jamal his insecurity behind a mask of menacing, drug-dealing masculinity.
And the whole thing is performed with such gleeful, Guy Ritchie vigour, all contorted faces and spat vowels, that it’s easy to overlook the intelligence and empathy underlying it; echoes of the Grenfell Tower disaster resonate deafeningly throughout this pugnacious paean to a persecuted community.