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Published on Friday, 21 August 2009

I knew little about what to expect from Bane, except that it was a one-man show based on a parody film-noir hit man "who gets the job done". What I hadn't quite realised was just how one-man it is. Actor Joe Bone doesn't just play all the roles; he does the sound effects and mimes out the set, too - his hands even spell out the subtitles of the hypothetical TV show he's lampooning.

The sheer physical stamina required to keep it going is hugely impressive, and at times - during the climactic fight scene, for example, as he rocked and rolled under a hail of blows - I could have sworn there were two men on the stage. Bone's performance isn't just unstoppable, it's all but impeccable too, with perfect timing and a fine range of voices creating the array of characters who occupy Bane's murky gangland world.

For all I admired it, though, I have to put my hand up and admit the whole experience didn't quite work for me. Perhaps I was just tired, but it was so fast and so furious that I felt I was having to work a little bit too hard to follow along. I lost the thread of the plot on a couple of occasions, although - to be fair - I quickly picked it up again. All in all, there's a nagging thought at the back of my mind that the whole thing might be slightly too full-on.

It's a shame I sometimes dropped out, because the script deserves your full attention. The parody begins quite gently, but becomes more and more extreme; there are some great, dark one-liners, and some beautifully-conceived comic scenes. Amidst the sound and fury there isn't a huge amount of room to develop Bane's character, but there are a few nice touches, as for example when we learn about his string of throw-away girlfriends by listening to the messages on his answering machine.

Joe Bone isn't quite the only man on the stage; guitarist Ben Roe is a big part of it too - though his selfless performance, sitting quietly in the corner, is dangerously easy to overlook. His strumming's a perfect match for the atmospheric menace of the storyline, and it was great to see the audience acknowledge his contribution with an equal share of the applause at the end.

All in all, then, prepare to have to work on Bane - but prepare to be rewarded. You'll feel exhausted on Joe Bone's behalf, and maybe on your own, but you're sure to enjoy the ride. It feels this show's on the verge of a breakthrough; if it can find just slightly more subtlety and balance, this talented young actor will truly have got the job done.

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