Ugly Lies The Bone @ National Theatre

Ugly Lies The Bone follows Jess who returns home from Afghanistan to a small town in Florida. She begins to experiment with virtual reality therapy, where she learns how to escape and cope with her pain. We also see how Jess’ return affects her relationship with her mum, her sister Kaciee and former flame Stevie.

Kate Fleetwood is fantastic as Jess. She’s an incredibly versatile actress and was far from the last role I saw her play (Tracy Lord in High Society at the Old Vic). The consistency of the way she carried herself across the stage was never out of place at all, throughout the 90 minute play. Jess was humorous and sarcastic, which bought a few laughs from the audience. Ralf Little is brilliant as Stevie. I’d say Stevie was more of the comic relief in the play. He balanced out the harshness and defensiveness of Jess’ sense of humour by being cute and aloof.

There’s support from Olivia Darnley as Kaciee and Kris Marshall as Kaciee’s boyfriend, Kelvin. To be honest, I didn’t see the point of his character. He definitely felt like a filler and could’ve easily have been written out. I wanted to like Kaciee but I found her so patronising to the point where she became really annoying. And I’m not entirely sure if it was purposely written that way, as at one point, she discusses her job as a teacher. And I feel like her attitude may have stemmed from that. It didn’t take away the love she had for her sister but it did take away the strong sibling I thought was she going to be, since Jess has to rely on her so much.

The standout moments in the play were in Jess’ therapy sessions. The visual effects were the most incredible effects I have ever seen. I was sat in the circle in the Lyttelton, which I think is a huge benefit. The video projections took up the entire stage. It made me feel so immersed in Jess’ world. Luke Halls has designed some outstanding projections, that I hope gets a lot of recognition next award season.

I liked the structure of the play. The scenes would alternate from Jess home life to her therapy sessions. Which sounds like quite a simple structure, however, the closer the play was to finishing, the more I found the lines between real life and the virtual world blurring and I couldn’t tell what was real in Jess’ life or not, in particularly, the last scene with her mum.

Ugly Lies The Bone is a visually stunning play and a different take on a war veteran coming home. It is currently running in the Lyttelton at the National Theatre. For tickets and more information you can visit

Until next time,


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