Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Like the earlier ‘Bane’ this is an outstanding one-man film noir parody featuring an American gangster’s enforcer called Bruce Bane, and tells a story about him after the final moments of the previous show. Thankfully, ‘Bane 2’ works perfectly well as a stand-alone play, and even a working knowledge of film noir/gangster movies is optional – this show is accessible to such a wide range of people.
In a plot vaguely reminsicent of a Batman film, Bane finds himself fighting a monster created when an old school friend is partially drowned in toxic waste. But the idea isn’t taken too seriously, and there’s room for some gentle poking of the genre and its common plot holes. Considering the nature of the genre, it’s no surprise that so much of this plot relies on violence, but ‘Bane 2’ also has plenty of space for laughter and certainly doesn’t take itself or its genre too seriously.
‘Bane 2’ evokes a twentieth-century world familiar from gangster films and Grand Theft Auto games – the world of the hired muscle acting for ruthless paymasters in an unforgiving city. So there are warehouses, blocks of flats, city streets, gun fights, a subway train. You get the idea. Joe Bone builds a meticulously-crafted world onstage and inside his audience’s heads. You see, he does it all by himself – all the props, all the sounds, everything. He does have an onstage guitarist, but his role is simply to underscore the drama with a tune that doesn’t vary much. The guitar’s contribution shouldn’t be underestimated, though; it provides exactly the right atmosphere for the grimy world Bone conjures.
Bone’s consumate skill has to be seen to be fully appreciated, and once in the theatre his audience is immersed in that world, partly because it exists so much inside their own imaginations. That Bone manages to create onstage physical relationships, physical comedy and classic ‘running-in-and-out-of-doors’ farce by himself is testament to the fact that this is an actor fully in command of his stage and one who is giving a masterclass in the possibilities of truely physical theatre.
This is the kind of theatrical event that inspires and invigorates theatre-goers and theatre-makers, reminding us all of the possibilities of what one man on a stage can achieve. A stripped-back production allows for incredibly rapid scene changes (Bone need only point a TV remote and he becomes a TV reporter miles away), and makes the otherwise implausible very real – like radio, the pictures are better this way. It’s this that allows both Bane plays their cinematic quality; Bone’s characters can walk down a street, ride a horse, become a toxic mutant monster and ride a subway without the aid of video screens, projections or any technology at all. From such a set-up, ‘Bane 2’ is easily able to poke fun at a genre it practically exists within, despite being from a different medium.
The simplicity and skill are beautiful, but it’s also refreshing to see an actor enjoy himself as much as Bone clearly does. Don’t let the film ‘noir’ thing put you off; this is light-hearted when it needs to be.
Fans of the original (this year performed at the GRV) are catered for with a smattering of jokes they will recognise, but this is still an outstanding hour of theatre even for those unfamiliar with Bruce Bane. See it if you possibly can.