The scene opens with a murderous rage and goes downhill from there. Bones is a short, one-person play about Mark, a dispossessed Nottingham teenager in 1998 forced to live alongside a newborn baby. Mark was destined to be a screw-up. Father buggered off before he was born. Mum raised him alone, not much more than a kid herself, as she slid into the abyss of drugs and the sex trade. Isolated, intimidated, seething with anger, Mark shares his bleak existence with the audience. The Skegness holiday that turned to disaster, a shag with a local prostitute that, well, also ends in disaster, and of course, that mewling, infuriating infant. It’s as if Long Eaton playwright Jane Upton has performed brain surgery with scalpel-sharp words, giving a stark view of the inside of Mark’s head. And it’s not a pretty sight.
The script has flashes of brilliance, juxtaposing the vulnerable boy in need of a father figure to the furious adolescent. Beneath Mark’s vitriol is a soul scarred by abuse. Yet he goes on to abuse too and the play makes no excuses. Like a raw, bloody tumour, cut from the body and dumped before the audience, you’ll have to make up your own mind about Mark.
A weighty role then, that falls upon actor Joe Doherty. And yet he makes it his own. Joe is the local lad plucked from the streets of Carlton to act in the movie Summer alongside some famous names. The skill he brings to this role shows just why. The accent, the swagger, the grimaces, Joe is totally convincing as Mark. A tour de force no less.
Bones has already garnered praise from the full-house audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. And rightly so. Some theatregoers may find the switching between storylines a tad confusing. A few questions were left unanswered as the lights went back up. Apart from Brian Clough and Panda Pops did the play particularly need to be set in 1998? Most of all, this is not for the fainthearted, as Mark recounts his violent sorties into the dark side in harrowing detail. But Bones is compelling, unforgettable and brilliantly acted.
Bones plays at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 29 September 2012.