THEATRE REVIEW: Ugly Lies The Bone ★★★

Ugly Lies The Bone
The National Theatre, London
Saturday 1st April 2017

The year is 2011 and the setting is Titusville, where we meet our characters at the end of Nasa’s space programme with one last launch imminent.  Exploring the use of virtual reality therapy, we meet Jess (Kate Fleetwood), who has returned after three tours in Afghanistan with scarring down the left side of her face, and is bound to a walker, though the virtual therapy soon helps her move her stiffened muscles in a way to which makes her strive to move in the virtual reality world around her.

This productions resonated so well because of the dynamics on stage between the actors, essentially bringing these characters to life that you fully felt for each of them like they were their own and not a creation from playwright Lindsey Ferrentino. The use of electronic movement for the set pieces ensured a smooth running of each scene and setting that enhanced the experience of watching this production, and only heightened by the beautiful design and detail of every inch of the virtual world that Jess embodies when in therapy.

What was so refreshing is well to have in this production was to not feel forced that we had to have one judgement on the characters on stage, because even though we get an initial sense of Ralf Little’s portrayal of Stevie having some sort of connection to Jess in his first encounter with her, it’s not until later into the play that their past is unraveled that the rug is pulled from under the audience's feet to see this new connection between the pairing, and equally the same with Kelvin (Kris Marshall), who I think still remains a mystery beyond the end of the production as to why Jess doesn’t like him so much dating her sister Kacie (Olivia Darnley).

Kate Fleetwood’s abilities in this production was placed boldly to convey this wounded character with such clarity to which she exceeded hugely with such sympathy from the audience; the sequence in which she changes into a stunning evening dress was at times harrowing to watch and listen as she howled with pain in completely this change, but kept myself completely hooked and inspired by the scene unfolding on stage. The introduction of the mother at the end of the play, wonderfully played by Buffy Davis, who also provides the voice to the therapist in the virtual simulator, was also a cleverly conceived device when she is spoken throughout the production but never seen up until this point, to which allows us to have this judgement upon her but when then presented on stage allows us to really feel for her character in a scene which may be very familiar to those who live with any family member suffering with dementia.

Ugly Lies the Bone is a beautiful written play by Lindsey Ferrentino, which runs at The National Theatre until June 6th, which delves into the still fresh and ever developing world of Virtual Reality in a play all about relationships, trust and love for each other.


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