Wahey – there’s nothing more you want on Thursday afternoon than one of Kirsty’s sceptic, grumpy theatre reviews.
Here we go for Ugly Lies the Bone, National Theatre (tickets £5, entry pass scheme).
Maybe I’m so grumpy at this show because of the hype. I booked my tickets months ago, far before I even knew what it was about simply because there were only 2 entry pass tickets left. To me, that screamed excitement – a sell out, about virtual reality and trauma victims. I had visions of an immersive audience experience, putting a VR headset on and being transported to a revolutionary new age theatre of the future. Naturally, when the curtains came up and I was presented with an actor, standing on stage wearing the VR headset herself, I was a bit miffed. The only child in me had folded arms and the green eyed monster arising within. The theatre student in me though, has to consider realistically how is it actually possible to give a 200 strong audience a virtual reality experience. The answer to that lay in the Nationals ever impressive set design team. Projection was used on a cave-like structure to replicate the experience, but that’s not VR, that’s very clever use of a very expensive projector.
Another qualm I had with the show was the amount of explanation it needed. Although you could easily follow the context through the story and knew the characters stories fairly deeply, in order to understand why the play existed. It was only then that I realised quite how many issues the play was trying to tackle – PTSD, virtual reality, familial carers, virtual reality therapy, loss of jobs in Florida – just to name a few. A little overwhelming for a Tuesday evening. All the issues made sense together, I just wished there could be more focus on one or two. Yes, I get that realistically there’s always 10 things going on at once and they all affect a meta-narrative of life, but can you fit a meta-narrative of trauma and loss into an hour and a half? And to then punctuate it with jazzy animations, does it not just cheapen it? Well it all depends on perspective doesn’t it.
It’s just such a shame that I don’t feel more excited reviewing this show because I so wanted it to blow my mind. I suppose it’s a good start to changing the game with theatre, bringing in modern technology to catch up with the digital age. But I would only class it as a start. Clean up your narrative, think about your audience, then get fancy. Thanks