Written by Jen McGregor and performed by Daniel Hird, Old Bones revolves around the charming scoundrel James Napier as he takes the audience on an interactive tale of his life. Charting love, loss, and deals with the devil, the play is fascinating, excellently paced, and brilliantly performed.
Hird manages to draw the audience in and keep them captivated throughout the 60-minute runtime. Mastering the range of emotions displayed, he fully embodies the roguish, dangerous charm and anguish of the character with finesse – offering a startlingly realistic portrayal of a man caught in endless torment. His journey from swindling lothario to abject misery is stunning and Hird does an excellent job of portraying these vastly different characters facets while never drifting into melodrama, remaining constantly grounded and sympathetic.
The writing is smart and witty, with a unique story and a real sense of a journey created. Spanning 400 years and multiple continents, the action remains snappy and a sense of movement and character growth is conjured impressively. The use of props – including a red sheet which acts as a carpet, cloak, and sail of a ship and a framed picture of Napier’s scientist brother – is sparse but well done and creates a sense of theatricality.
The show also manages to be consistently comedic and this injection of humour helps to create a connection between Hird and those viewing the show. The play includes interactive elements, with the audience being called up to play the Devil himself or to try to beat Napier at a game of dice. This heightens the camaraderie between the protagonist and those he is telling the story to; it never leads to the action losing steam but instead makes it more intriguing. Those called up are not asked to speak and the interactive sections are brief, which means there is no anxiety from those who are asked to join Hird and the rest of the audience can still relax and enjoy the show.
Overall, Old Bones is a darkly comedic, fascinating look at one man’s rich and tormented life.