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Two rugby players sit on pitch - Ronan Cullen as Ed and Ashley Fannen as Will in Bones, Park Theatre



Park Theatre

BONES at the Park Theatre


Two rugby players sit on pitch - Ronan Cullen as Ed and Ashley Fannen as Will in Bones, Park Theatre

“Cullen is excellent as Ed, at once physically strong and heart-wrenchingly vulnerable”


Bones opens in the middle of a rugby match, bodies hurtling across the grassy stage. Actors grapple and slam each other to the floor, centimetres from the audience who are sat thrillingly close in the intimate Park90 space. Ed (Ronan Cullen) describes the thrill of a scrum, and it feels like the front row might be called up to flank the defence.

Bones invites the audience to become one of the lads, as it tackles mental health and masculinity within a rugby club. The plot follows a young man, Ed, who is isolating himself from his close-knit team. His mates, including level-headed Charlie (Samuel Hoult) and the swaggering Will (Ainsley Fannen) grow concerned at his erratic behaviour but struggle to communicate outside of jabbing pub banter. As a crucial match looms, Ed’s interactions with his friends, a doctor and his father suggest a more serious unravelling.

Cullen is excellent as Ed, at once physically strong and heart-wrenchingly vulnerable. James Mackay completes the ensemble, responsible for portraying multiple minor characters who are depicted by adding different shirts over the rugby strip sported by the rest of the cast. The most significant of these is Ed’s father and Mackay and Cullen have a touching, tender closing scene.

Bones makes the most of theatre in the round, with the set a simple square of AstroTurf. The closeness of the audience emphasises the claustrophobia of Ed’s struggles: the proximity means you see every drop of sweat beading on the actors’ faces.

Lighting and two spartan benches are cleverly deployed to move scenes between the rugby field, the pub, and Ed’s house. A rugby ball spewing chalk is utilised creatively through the climax, though I did leave with my trousers spotted with white powder.

The production is from Redefine, a company co-founded by ex-athletes and theatrical movement practitioners. This partnership reaps benefits in affrontingly physical match sequences that illustrate the parallels between Ed’s physical and mental pain. This is the piece’s second outing after a run at the Theatre Peckham in May 2022. It has been extended to 75 minutes and has an updated sound design (Eliza Willmott). Atmospheric synths back intense, acrobatic scenes, though actors occasionally lose the battle to make sure every line is heard.

The writing is worth straining to hear, with Lewis Aaron Wood’s script regularly serving up belly-laugh one-liners, especially for chief jester Will. This character’s transformation is one of the more interesting strands within the play; his early ripostes encroach on bullying territory, though he is the first to learn how to engage with crisis-mode Ed. Fannen deftly navigates this complexity so it does not jar. He delivers one of the most poignant lines: he challenges the generally more sensitive Charlie as to whether Charlie should want to be proven right, or let a contentious point go to support a friend. Moments like this elevate the piece, which sensitively explores the frustrations of engaging with those facing mental health struggles.

The conclusion of Bones may be too sentimental for some, with the optimistic ending avoiding the grittier reality of mental health care available within the UK. However, Redefine have stated their ambition to show recordings of Bones to rugby clubs across the country, where the play’s hopeful message is likely most novel.

There is enough sporting pedigree behind the show to ensure irregular theatre goers should not feel patronised by theatre creeping on their turf, whilst the quality script, strong direction from Redefine co-founder Daniel Blake, and intense physical performances give a thespian crowd plenty to enjoy.



Reviewed on 10th July 2023

by Rosie Thomas

Photography by Charles Flint




Previously reviewed at this venue:


Paper Cut | ★★½ | June 2023
Leaves of Glass | ★★★★ | May 2023
The Beach House | ★★★ | February 2023
Winner’s Curse | ★★★★ | February 2023
The Elephant Song | ★★★★ | January 2023
Rumpelstiltskin | ★★★★★ | December 2022
Wickies | ★★★ | December 2022
Pickle | ★★★ | November 2022
A Single Man | ★★★★ | October 2022
Monster | ★★★★★ | August 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews









Reviewed – 25th February 2020



“Without being too polemical Greer gives clarity to a very difficult discussion with plenty of humour and humanity”


Throughout discussions popularised by the #MeToo social media campaign, there seems to have been a disconnect within the idea that since pretty much all women have experienced sexual assault in one form or another, it stands to reason that a whole bunch of men, and not just a handful of evil predators, have been doing it.

Perhaps the difficulty in swallowing this pill is due to the shades of horror that fall within the sexual assault bracket: no, not every man is Harvey Weinstein, but that doesn’t mean that a crime hasn’t been committed and that a woman doesn’t have the right to speak up.

Gillian Greer’s Meat seeks to navigate this very tricky arena. Max (India Mullen) has arranged to meet up with her college boyfriend Ronan (Sean Fox) to let him know she’s written about the night he assaulted her and that it’s going to be published. But Ronan claims he remembers it very differently, or is it that he doesn’t remember it at all? He’s a bit hazy on the subject.

This isn’t about whether Ronan is a villain. Rather it’s about recognising that he is, as Max puts it, “a good guy who did a shit thing.”

A story like this requires a lot of personality and Greer delivers. Mullen and Fox have a well-worn patter that feels natural and affectionate even when they’re fighting. Much of the script is taken up with friendly banter, giving the audience plenty of space to place Ronan’s transgression within a wider picture.

Jo (Elinor Lawless), manager of Ronan’s restaurant and interested party, is an excellent addition to the script because whilst she doesn’t play a pivotal role, nonetheless her character is absolutely necessary, as witness and judge to the night’s events. We’re never led to the brink of disbelieving Max, but our loyalties waver throughout, and Lawless serves as an excellent barometer in this regard. Her comic delivery is also masterful, near-on stealing the show. Set in Ronan’s fancy new meat restaurant (designed by Rachel Stone), animal carcases provide a disturbing backdrop and a constant reminder that we are in Ronan’s domain, making Max’s position all the more uncomfortable as she tries to stand her ground.

Instead of clearing the table between courses, food is thrown on the floor and smeared on the walls, which makes sense when Ronan comes to flip the table in a rage, but not a minute sooner. It’s not terribly distracting, but there just doesn’t seem to be any reason, beside it being difficult to artfully splatter food all over the stage in one table flip without covering the front row in foie gras.

The narrative drags a little in the middle, leaving me to wonder if there’s any more to say on the matter once the premise is set out, but the story does pick up and develop, and whilst there are no real surprises, the plot is- forgive the pun- surprisingly meaty.

As directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson, Meat is very much a story for the current climate. Without being too polemical Greer gives clarity to a very difficult discussion with plenty of humour and humanity.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Alex Brenner



Theatre503 until 14th March


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Cuzco | ★★★ | January 2019
Wolfie | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Amber Trap | ★★★ | April 2019
J’Ouvert | ★★★★ | June 2019
A Partnership | ★★★ | October 2019
Out Of Sorts | ★★★★ | October 2019
Spiderfly | ★★★★★ | November 2019
A Fairytale Revolution | ★★★★ | December 2019
Fragments Of A Complicated Mind | ★★★★ | January 2020


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