The Tristan Bates Theatre is a small, sparse space and Bane and Bane 2 use no set and no props. There is only one actor and a guitarist for an accompaniment. Is this credit crunch theatre? No, this is Joe Bone’s thrilling one man show which boasts car chases, gun fights and a rampaging monster.
Bruce Bane is a gun for hire, an anti-hero straight out of a pulp graphic novel and film noir. He shoots from the hip and asks questions later in these two hard-boiled detective stories which last just shy of an hour and can be seen back-to-back.
Bone plays all 79 characters. Each of them, almost always adding to the body count, is played with startling clarity and Bone flits between these city low-lifes at break neck speed. He produces the sounds of gun shots, poison darts and cars whilst guitarist Ben Roe does an excellent job with the soundtrack. This is exceptional miming and physical theatre which leaves you in doubt as to what’s happening.
Not unlike the visually stunning The Animals and Children Took to Streets, Bone claims to have brought the Bane of the graphic novel to life, but its greatest strength lies in its cinematic ambition. These are hugely filmic productions, not solely in their use of material but in their scope of storytelling. The action sequences and rapid scene changes are played out perfectly but its Bone’s use of focus which is truly dazzling and unique. Shelby, the stories' villain, is present in several of the early scenes and yet remains uninhabited by Bone; this subtle but brilliant device mimics the way the film baddies remain out of shot or in the shadows and builds suspense beautifully.
Bane is arguably better than its sequel but both shows come creaking under the weight of fringe awards, and last week an amalgamation of the two plays unofficially smashed the Guinness world record for the most characters played by one actor in a play. Whatever their accolades these two plays are riotous spectacles which dazzle with inventiveness and shines with wicked humour.
By Jon Davis
Bane & Bane 2 are at the Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower Street, WC2H 9NP until the 29th January. Tickets £8 or £12 for both shows.