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Bane 1, 2 and 3
Published on Sunday, 14 August 2011

5 stars (Critic's Choice)

Pleasance Dome (venue website)
3-14, 16-28 Aug, 5:20pm-6:20pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Around half of you, I’d guess, are reading this review because you saw Bane in 2009 or Bane 2 last year – and you’re wondering whether Bane 3 is a worthy addition to this much-respected series of one-man shows.  If that’s why you’re here, this is what you need to know.  Yes, it’s as funny and energetic as it always is; yes, there’s more than enough freshness and novelty to sustain a third instalment; and yes, you do get to see the final showdowns we’ve all been waiting for.  Now stop reading and buy a ticket, because on the basis of the packed house I witnessed, this one is going to sell.

But if you’re one of those who’s never experienced the sheer force of will which is Bane, it’s time you found out what you’ve been missing.  Actor Joe Bone – confusingly, his real name is very similar to his character’s – plays all the parts in a complex film-noir parody tale, centred on a hired killer who “just gets the job done”.  As well as taking on the characters, Bone mimes out the props and creates all the sound effects; there are no costume changes or lighting tricks, just one man alone on the stage.  His only help and company is guitarist Ben Roe, whose atmospheric strumming sets the mood and pace for Bane’s darkly comic adventures.

The physical stamina is extraordinary, but what really impresses is Bone’s ability to create visual and auditory catchphrases for every one of his characters.  Whether he’s screwing up his face in a certain way, or adding a particular cadence to his vocal tone, there’s never any doubt which of his many inventions currently inhabits his body.  Often – maybe hundreds of times, if you counted them all – a quick sidestep takes him instantly from one role to another, but there’s never any sense of discontinuity; on occasion, you have to blink and remind yourself that there’s really only one man on the stage.

There’s a perky observational wit to all of his many creations, and Bone is equally at home playing a hardened mobster as a cliché-ridden DJ.  The humour ranges from political parody to cheesy Two Ronnies “four candles” gags, but it’s at it funniest when it takes a single idea and repeats it, over and over, to its extreme.  Yet this isn’t laugh-a-minute comedy; there’s real excitement, and some moments of poignancy too.  One tragic twist to the tale drew audible gasps from many in the audience – proof, if any were needed, that Bone’s bravura performance held the crowd in its thrall.

Everything you’ve read up to now applies just as well to all three parts of Bane, and which part you see depends on which day of the week you attend (full details below).  Episode Three, which is new this year, sees a distinct new phase in our anti-hero’s life, utterly dispelling any concerns that it would prove to be the same thing again.  Retiring to the coast to “feel the sand under his feet”, the script makes hay with the seaside sunshine, before – inevitably – Bane’s past comes crashing back in.  The change of pace works well, and gives Bone the chance to explore a new side of life… but don’t worry, the trademark unstoppable action sequences are still there.

There’s an occasional sense that Bane is becoming a parody of itself, and if you didn’t see the two previous instalments, you might do better to start with Part One.  Don’t worry too much, though; Bone and Roe will astonish you, whenever you choose to leap on board their runaway train.  Get your ticket, cling on, and enjoy the ride.

Bane 1 is performed on Tuesdays and Fridays; Bane 2 on Wednesdays and Saturdays; and Bane 3 is performed on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays.  Be sure to book a date corresponding to the episode you want to see.

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