Big Bones, based on the true story of ‘The Irish Giant’, is the story of a catastrophically clumsy girl called Norah who finds a family in a cursed circus troupe. The cast of six women perform engaging and dynamic musical numbers in perfect synchrony, which had everyone in the audience wiggling their hips.
As the show starts, a narrator’s soothing voice warns us: ‘This is a bit of a silly story’, and indeed this is an essential element to its enjoyability! Norah is helplessly likeable and cannot help but make us laugh as she trips over her feet. When she gets kicked out of her orphanage for ruining the ‘Show of Precious Things’ due to an unfortunate fall, she joins the circus that her great great great grandfather, Big Bones, performed in as an Irish Giant. Unfortunately, the circus is cursed to never get an audience, because Big Bones’ dying wish was disrespected. Indeed, rather than being buried at sea, his body was stolen by the horrible Ted Snatcher for his museum. In order to break the curse, Norah and her friends, which include a geriatric contortionist and a clairvoyant octopus, must go on a sneaky museum heist through various exhibits to retrieve Big Bone’s skeleton and give him the funeral he wished for.
The show feels like a continuous burst of energy, and is delightfully original, filled with punny jokes and rather bohemian circus costumes. Puppets come alive as they emerge from the shadows, adding to the magic of the story, and fit right in among the circus folk. As Norah finally takes her ancestor’s bones out to sea, the room hushes and Big Bones himself comes alive to listen as she touchingly reflects on what a pleasure it is to be different.
The key to the show’s appeal however, in my opinion, is the camaraderie between the cast. Their enjoyment of the show is crucial to ours, and as they often assimilate themselves to the audience, we tend to follow their lead. Thus the audience is engaged in the events so that it feels like we ourselves are under their circus tent, on a heist, or even out at sea. And indeed as the final applause rings out and I get up from my seat, it feels like I too have just been on an adventure with Big Bones, the Irish Giant.
'Big Bones' was on at the VAULT festival and was a production of FacePlant Theatre.