Bane 1, 2 and 3
Superior noir-influenced multi-character comedy
This article is from 2011.
Bane is the hard-boiled, noir-edged creation of Joe Bone. Together with musician Ben Roe, he creates a universe every night where creeps roam the streets, bad guys talk in suspicious accents and the right kind of anti-hero is always willing to shoot first and ask questions later.
That anti-hero is Bruce Bane. In the first instalment (●●●●), he’s simply a bag man, hired by shady figures to ‘get the job done, and take no prisoners’. Bone plays every character, and supplies all his own sound effects, while Roe applies an excellent and understated live musical score from the wings. Bone’s energy and complete control of the scenes he creates are astounding; only the occasional shrugs and winks he directs to the audience break the illusion, and never in a cheesy way. Letting the audience in on the joke is part of the act – in a way, the whole performance is just Bone’s way of retelling some of his favourite private detective storylines, with plentiful film references (Laura, Leon, Back to the Future) for those who keep their eyes open.
Bane 2 (●●●) broadens the horizons, keeping the noir backbone but adding in some sci-fi and horror influences as well (especially An American Werewolf in London). A crazed beast is loose on the streets, and Bane has to figure out where it came from before it gets to him. While the atmosphere and characterisation remain spot on, there are a few slips and stumbles, such as a regrettable sub-plot with a pair of gay Russian gangsters (played out to a climax involving an ever-so-slightly tacky pun). Still, a wider repertoire of onstage techniques – flashbacks, a dream sequence and several characters drowning on a dry stage – make it worth the watch.
The pace picks back up with Bane 3 (●●●●). After an extended chase sequence involving a former adversary, Bane retires and goes into hiding – but can he really escape a life of crime? Bone’s performance is faultless here – in one particular four character-scene, he swaps between each personality seamlessly, even as the physical and verbal exchanges between the characters become more and more frantic. Despite the overwhelming air of silliness throughout, the penultimate scene still manages to elicit shocked gasps from some members of the audience – people that have stayed with the Bane story from the first, and have become deeply involved with the character. Bone’s achievement here is massive – his film noir pastiche has managed to provoke genuine emotion in his audience.
The flyer says that the episodes can be enjoyed in any order, and while this is true to an extent, it’s worth trying to catch them in sequence to get the most out of the rhythms, running gags and recurring characters on stage. While the Bane universe looks set to keep expanding – there’s a narrative Twitter feed, a graphic novel, a radio play and an international tour in the works – this trilogy would be a high point on which to leave him: complete while still being murky and uncertain, but with a glimmer of humanity, like all the best private eyes.
Follow Banne on Twitter @thebanestory.