Theatre review: Flesh And Bone

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: “What piece of work is a man?” Flesh And Bone explodes on to the stage as if Shakespeare was alive and well and living in a tower block in east London.

Pleasance Dome (Venue 23)

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Elliot Warren’s blistering text blends Shakespearean language and East End slang with apparent seamlessness in the mouths of people who live in abject poverty.

Terence (Warren) is a 21st-century guttersnipe of the high-rises. His girlfriend Kelly (Olivia Brady, who co-directs with Warren) works sex ­chatlines for extra cash. They live “squashed together” in a ­rat-infested flat with Reiss (Michael Jinks), Tel’s brother, who is afraid to admit he’s gay, and Grandad (Nick T Frost), who becomes for a moment, a kind of King Lear figure as he talks about the loss of his love, Eliza. Their neighbour Jamal (Alessandro Babalola) is the ­“hardest bastard on the block”, but beneath the mask it’s a different story.

Flesh And Bone is the first show by Unpolished Theatre, founded last year by ­Warren and Brady, recent ­graduates from drama school in Bournemouth, and comes to the Fringe with the support of the Pleasance’s Charlie Harthill Special Reserve Fund. The energy and heightened language owes something to Steven Berkoff’s East, which Warren and Brady acted in, but they make the style their own, dragging it kicking and screaming into 2017.

In this “rotten shitstorm of concrete housing”, these characters live and love and fight and dream. The play’s elevated language spliced with realism allows them to talk about who they are underneath: vital, interesting, multi-dimensional souls who want to live fruitful lives. It’s fitting that, when the play hurtles towards its conclusion and bulldozers threaten their homes, they are prepared to defend this “merry, miserable life” to the end.

Until 28 August. Today 4pm.