Only Bones is a “minimalist physical theatre and sparse-video performance project” thought up by Thom Monckton and has had several subsequent ‘versions’ since, which is how we arrive at Only Bones v1.10. The rules are as follows: "only one light, no narrative, no set, no props, no text, and all within a limited amount of space" (Only Bones Project). Nodder has several collaborators helping to create v1.10, and it fulfils a massive goal of theirs to be able to collaborate with Monckton according to their marketing.
Now, onto the bones themselves. Nodder is a seasoned theatre practitioner in Poneke, with a few shows already under their belt, but Only Bones v1.10 feels so much more special. We enter Te Auaha’s Tapere Iti space which is dimly lit with a single light hanging in the middle. The preshow music feels like a marriage between Christmas carols and ‘relaxing beats to chill and study to’, setting up an intimate atmosphere. When the show begins, the light switches on and Nodder begins by holding it, giving us glimpses of the light between their fingers as the music swells. Already we’re hooked. The simplicity of this one light is one of the best parts of the show, and Nodder’s creativity knows no bounds with it - hell, have you ever seen a lightbulb monster?
Worlds and stories are created and quickly destroyed. The lack of narrative/dialogue means Nodder has to work extra hard to win us over, and they do. The rules for this piece could make for some pretty dry theatre, but you can see how much thought has gone into every movement, every sound, and every change in the light. We don’t need a narrative for this to be enjoyable, it just is.
I want to give Ben Kelly a huge shoutout for the sound design. Between the moments of silence we get with Nodder, we’re treated to otherworldly electronic soundscapes that help usher us into this ‘microscopic universe’.
The intimacy of Only Bones v1.10 adds so much to it. We’re treated to some of the funniest physical gags I’ve seen in a long time, and slivers of vulnerability when we see Nodder trying to overcome an obstacle or when he begins getting tired. I only wish there were a few more moments of intentional vulnerability. Nodder tells wonderful wordless stories, many of them leaving us in stitches, but I found myself craving a breakaway from that, a moment for the charm to slip into something else. The audience’s trust is already earned, we don’t mind a break from the sillies.
I left this performance with a big goofy smile on my face. There’s so much joy in seeing someone fully commit to a concept, being bold enough to own the stage and the art they’ve made. Nodder’s bold physicality and the sheer amount of fun they're having up there is so lovely to watch, it reminds me that this is what making art is all about. This is physical theatre for the physical theatre hater, I promise it’ll change your mind.
Only Bones v1.10 is on at Te Auaha in Tapere Iti until Saturday 11th March.
A quick disclaimer: because of the insular nature of the arts community, we find ourselves reviewing shows involving our friends and artistic collaborators quite often, so there’s no one who can approach this show without some level of bias. Daniel Nodder and Ben Kelly are two very good friends of mine, alongside others who worked on the show, but I’ve done my best to provide a fair and accurate review.
Feel free to get in touch with the team via firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback.