Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Elliot Warren: Flesh And Bone

By | Published on Sunday 24 June 2018

‘Flesh and Bone’ is a show I heard about up at the Edinburgh Festival in 2017, and if you were there I am pretty sure you will have heard of it too, given all the buzz it generated, the great reviews it received, and the awards it won.

As you can imagine, it’s been an exciting year for this production, and I was really pleased to see it headed for a run at Soho Theatre. I spoke to writer and performer Elliot Warren, to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling us what to expect from the plot of the play? Where does the narrative take us?
EW: The play centres around a family living in a tower block in East London that is due for demolition. You will be taken through a working-class estate at break neck speed and shown these individual’s troubles, their trials, their deepest, darkest secrets and desires…

CM: What themes does the play explore?
EW: The play follows the lives of a working-class family living on the edge of poverty. But it also delves into what it is to be a man, homosexuality, old age, survival in an ever changing, gentrified borough and many others!

CM: Who are the main characters and who portrays them?
EW: It is a cast of five and everyone has their time under the spotlight. The play follows the lives of Terrence (played by myself) and Kelly (played by Olivia Brady), who live in Kelly’s grandad’s flat. Grandad (played by Nick T Frost), has moved his brother (Played by Michael Jinks) into the flat too and living below them is drug-dealer Jamal (Played by Alessandro Babalola).

CM: What made you want to create a performance piece tackling these themes? What inspired the story?
EW: My family are from East London. There is so much character spilling out in bucket loads through the streets. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has their own identity. I have always wanted to write about those kinds of people. I live on an estate in Dalston and being in the thick of it made me want to get stuck into a story all about the lives of the types of people living in these settings. The story of the Kidbrooke estate in South London was something Olivia and I were very interested in too and how those people felt about their councils and the government. Then, the Grenfell tragedy happened, and we realised we had a story that needed to be told.

CM: Are there any autobiographical elements to it?
EW: Yes. Grandad is based, very loosely, upon my own Grandad. Although the Grandad in the play is a sleazy, rotten old git. My Grandad definitely isn’t that! But mine was a jazz singer whom everyone loves. He wears loads of gold jewellery on top of his dressing gown and still upholds himself as some great and suave East End king. A lot of the story elements to the play are based on real events and stories we were told or researched based upon real working-class communities.

CM: I know it’s important to you to give a a voice to working-class communities. Do you think the kind of work you produce can influence the way said communities are perceived?
EW: Definitely. We have a character called Jamal who is a Roadman essentially. He sells drugs; he is scary, intimidating and unwelcoming. But once broken down you see that this facade he puts on is just war paint in order to survive. I won’t say how you find out – come and see!

We break stereotypes and the audience become almost friends with the characters. They can relate and understand, and this is important. People leave ‘Flesh and Bone’ feeling impassioned and that’s what I’m most happy about.

CM: I know the show did well at Edinburgh last year, but I think it’s gone from strength to strength in the meantime. Can you tell us what’s happened over the last year?
EW: After Edinburgh we went straight to the National Theatre Studios and had an intense few days there developing elements, trying out some fantastic sound designs and exploring movement. We then went to the Adelaide Fringe in Australia at the start of this year and were, apparently, the first international company to win the Best Overall Theatre Award! We also won a Critics Circle award there too. The play text is going to be out alongside the Soho Theatre run and that has been really exciting for me – to have all the hard work and time condensed into a neat little book will feel very rewarding!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Unpolished Theatre – how it became a company, and what aims it has?
EW: Unpolished was created alongside ‘Flesh and Bone’. It is the first play I have written and the first play Olivia and I have created together. We aim to give voices to the unheard and create jam-packed theatre with heart and soul. Story and character is at the fore front, we wouldn’t want to shove messages down people’s throats, but with good characters that people care about I think messages will always, always find themselves within your stories.

CM: What’s next for the play after Soho? Further touring or a rest?
EW: We have all said this play is so insanely fun to perform and resting isn’t our style! We most probably won’t be touring it in the near future but putting it on in London again is something we would always be interested in doing!

CM: What’s coming up next for you and the company? Any new projects in the pipeline?
EW: Olivia and I are in talks at the minute about our new play and once we have something locked down I will start to write. I write very quickly, so once we have something, it shouldn’t take long before we journey into production! Personally, I have a few other acting jobs in the pipeline and writing my mini-series, ‘Stick Up’!


‘Flesh and Bone’ is on at Soho Theatre from 3-21 Jul, see the venue website here for more information and to book.

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Photo: Owen Baker