Ugly Lies The Bone, National Theatre | Review

Thursday 2 March 2017

Ugly Lies The Bone
Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 1st March 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

Unless you've ever been on a tour of Afghanistan as a soldier, I would assume it's pretty impossible to ever know what it must be like. To experience pain, death and sadness so up close must be truly horrific and coming back to a family and community who have changed and moved on without experiencing that? I can't imagine.

Ugly Lies The Bone, a new play by American playwright Lindsey Ferrentino, aims to shed light on this as well as exploring virtual reality therapy which trials show, has been successful in reducing pain levels in those who have suffered serious injuries.

The play tells the story of Jess played by Kate Fleetwood, who has come home after three tours of Afghanistan to her Florida town in the heart of Nasa county. Awfully disfigured and struggling to deal with the constant pain, she must learn to adjust to her life which is not as she remembers it.

In a bid to move on with her life she agrees to take part in an experimental virtual reality therapy programme which aims to reduce her pain levels. She is taken into a virtual world of snow capped mountains and delicate, falling feathers where she begins to experience life without pain again.

Over the course of 90 minutes we watch the story of Jess and those around her adapting and recovering both mentally and physically.

Kate performs the cynical, frustrated character very well, showing the struggles very truthfully through a stunning performance. Ralf Little is also wonderful as the bumbling Stevie who is facing an internal struggle of his own.

For me, I found the play fell a little flat. Because we didn't get to see Jess before her injuries it was hard to see any character development and therefore hard to see how the virtual reality therapy worked. Overall there was just not enough character development and I felt that there was not enough solid dialogue or storyline to make the audience empathise with them.

The set and stunning design are brilliant and really do immerse the audience in the virtual world but I would have loved a stronger storyline to back it up. The whole cast give extremely solid performances but no real plot means there isn't a final resolution and overall there is a flatness.

Ugly Lies The Bone is on at the National Theatre until June 6th.

Photo: Mark Douet