In Only Bones, we watch a solo physical performer (Thomas Monckton) manipulate his own body parts to create the illusion of characters, relationships, and scenes that, when taken all together, conjure a surreal story of evolution, arriving at the presentation of himself as a whole human being.
The setting is in the Dissecting Room at the Summerhall, once used as a veterinary lecture demonstration theatre. This enhances the anatomical focus on the human body and its movement capabilities. The most important set element, though, is the hanging shaded lamp that masks Monckton’s face until it’s revealed as part of the exploratory journey through the body that begins at his toes and ends with the voice.
The lamp casts light and shadow that make the body parts appear as spotlit objects in space - how do they move? What can they do? This, in turn, triggers the imagination, harnessing the human capacity to anthropomorphise and project story onto inert, non-literal stimuli.
Monckton trained in circus technique in his native New Zealand, before studying physical theatre-clown at the renowned École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in France. The intense study of physical control and analysis of bodily expression these institutes provides allows Monckton to explore the communicative capacities of minimal human movement. Our imagination conjures prehistoric sea creatures from the independently undulating digits of a weaving hand; a couple setting out to consumate a date appear in the movement of wrists and fingers; genetic experiments resulting in hybrid life-forms emerge from a pair of fists and associated vocalisations.
As his body discovers itself, creating a head, using the plasticity of his facial skin to mold identities, and at last using verbal language, we are shown an abstract origin story that spans all of life and arrives in humanity. (KK)
Only Bones is on at 20:30 at Summerhall until August 28th. Wheelchair Access - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/only-bones
On the pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq: http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/staffhome/siryan/academy/theatres/lecoq,%20jacques.htm
Only Bones OU - a parallel video work stemming from the Only Bones project: https://vimeo.com/143630618
Dr Vincent Bellonzi on plasticity of the human body: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0XZfDZxR9g
Types of body movements: http://philschatz.com/anatomy-book/contents/m46398.html
‘Imagining Other Minds: Anthropomorphism Is Hair-Triggered but Not Hare- Brained’: https://static.squarespace.com/static/51e3f4ede4b053e5f0062efd/t/5474a9b4e4b09a953cc54329/1416931764853/anthropomorphism-is-hair-triggered.pdf
‘Evolution of Life’ timeline: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17453-timeline-the-evolution-of-life/