Ugly Lies the Bone at the National Theatre review: War vet VR drama a rare flop for the NT

 
Steve Dinneen
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Ugly Lies the Bone at National Theatre
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A perfect storm of poor acting, casting, script and execution beats all life from this under-powered story about a soldier dealing with the mental and physical effects of war.

Jess returns home horribly scarred and in chronic pain, barely able to move her twisted body. In a bid to regain her lost freedom she embarks on a form of virtual reality therapy in which she can once again run, jump and climb. But while clever projection makes the VR scenes pop, they feel only tangentially related to the lacklustre drama about the difficulties of reintegration that makes up the meat of the play.

Kate Fleetwood nails the physical limitations of her character, but struggles with the emotional ones, and the result is a woman who’s likeable but utterly bland. She’s made to look better than she is by co-stars Kris Marshall and Ralph Little, neither of whom elevate their characters above archetypal small-town America dim-wits.

Given its interesting premise, this production is a huge missed opportunity, and its transfer from New York is a rare lapse of judgement from National Theatre creative director Rufus Norris.

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