Sunday, June 16

Tambo & Bones – Theatre Royal Stratford East

Theatre is always toying with the ideas of what is real and what is not. Even plays where that is not a theme expect from the audience certain agreement on the temporary reality of the fiction that will be seen. In Tambo & Bones, this is taken to a whole new level.

This remarkable piece co-produced by Stratford East and Actors Touring Company, written by Dave Harris and directed by Matthew Xia presents us with the characters of Tambo, played by Rhashan Stone, and Bones, by Daniel Ward. These two characters appear in the first and second acts of the play, and then are replaced by Stone and Ward playing as what seems to be a version of themselves 400 years into the future.

The story starts with Tambo and Jones playing two funny characters with simple props that are acknowledged by the characters themselves to be fake. The meta theatrical dimension of what in going to happen next is set in the first movement, when Tambo gets into the stage, points at a prop sun in the sky and makes a gesture as if he were suffering the hot weather. When Bones comes in asking for quarters, the two start their journey together.

The first step is realizing they are characters on a minstrel show, thus, two black men playing two white men that are pretending to be two black men. The ideas of fake and real fight with each other both in the discourse of the characters and later on in their actions. The performance of the actors is flawless in all their display of versatility and sensitivity.

The stage, with design by Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey and ULTZ, progressively loses its falsehood, until the end, when we can see it almost stripped to its bare walls. This progression is accompanied by the characters and the two actors, who change from outrageously fake to straightforward and sincere, whatever it could mean in the context.

The piece is extremely playful and full of well landed jokes, puns, and slapstick. However, for the most part, a sense of danger is brought about by the characters, and their naïve violence and aggression. An example of this is their quarrel with the playwright, who they accuse of treating them as mere concepts with which to play around. They end up literally tearing him apart and getting their quarters from him.

The two robots in the final act, performed by Jaron Lammens and Dru Cripps, bring this aggression to its concretion, and expose the violence contained in racist discourses. The journey from the beginning to the end is so extreme and overwhelming, that it is hard to put into words.

The struggle of the characters to become real, is incredibly vivid and worth of compassion, even if what we see never pretends to stop being theatre.

A play worth seeing, to have fun and to learn how real theatre can be.

Playing until 15th July,

Reviewer: Gonzalo Alfredo Sentana

Reviewed: 22nd June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.