Mental Health Issues Kicked into Touch
“ When one part of the scrum breaks down, everything does.”
It is said that football is a gentleman’s game played by ruffians, and that rugby is a ruffians’ game played by gentlemen. The most obvious difference being that rugby is a contact sport. Over the years rugby has become a professional game requiring commitment and increasing aggression. On the field there are two types of players, the forwards and the backs.
Bones concerns a group of four forwards. They are the heaviest, part of the workhorse that deals with scrums, lineouts and controlled violence. Each player relies closely on the others so there is a strong bond of mateship, both on and off the field.
This is an exciting play, the playing area at ground level, is probably no more than four meters by five. The audience, in the round, are less than a foot from the field. The play opens with four large fit players passing the ball, we are in the middle of a game with high intensity movement ending with a winning try by Ed (Ronan Cullen). But Ed is reluctant to celebrate at the pub. Director Daniel Blake also has devised the movement which sees athletic rugby moves within inches of my nose. It feels dangerous for actors and audience alike.
After the game there are celebrations, mainly of drinking and singing but we are spared the scenes in the shower. Various injuries are compared and there is the build up to next week’s semi final when scouts are expected from top clubs, Saracens and Harlequins.
However Ed is beginning to have a change of heart and questions why he should carry on playing rugby. We don’t know the reason for this but it becomes clear as the play progresses. His teammates can’t understand why their high scoring player feels like this. When sober they try to help for the obligatory couple of minutes. This is the focus of the play as Ed has problems of mental health which he cannot talk about with his team.
Things get worse with Ed pleading with his captain Charlie (Samuel Hoult), to break his leg. Throughout we see intensive and aggressive training. Will (Ashley Fannen) is the least strong player but he chips and taunts Ed verbally. James Mackay plays Ed’s father and several other roles as well as teammate Ollie.
The simple stage, of AstroTurf and a couple of benches, works well with interesting percussive music and rock music from Eliza Willmott increasing excitement. This is a physically thrilling play, well acted and directed. However you might find the ending anti-climatic.
Written by Lewis Aaron Wood
Directed by Daniel Blake
Director and Movement: Daniel Blake
Sound Designer: Eliza Willmott
Running Time: One hour 15 minutes without an interval
Booking to 22nd July 2023
London N4 3JP
Tube: Finsbury Park
Reviewed by Malcolm Beckett
at the Park Theatre
on 10th July 2023