Theatre Review










Osip Theatre in association with Neil McPherson presents


Miss Lily Gets Boned or

The Loss of All Elephant Riders


Lorna Beckett in Miss Lily Gets Boned or the Loss of All Elephant Riders


by Bekah Brunstetter


Directed by Lily Bevan


Designed by Libby Watson


Lighting Design by Christoph Wagner


Sound Design by Emma Laxton


Finborough Theatre


15 June – 10 July 2010





A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

The Finborough Theatre in Earl's Court is one of the flagship fringe venues in London, with Neil McPherson, the artistic director since 1999, producing some of the most engaging and diverse productions in the UK. The theatre is situated above The Finborough Arms, an unusual building that stands in the centre of a street where two roads diverge.

Miss Lilly Gets Boned features two stories that entwine. The central plot is about a Sunday school teacher, Miss Lilly, (Lorna Beckett) a new born Christian who is desperate to find sexual satisfaction and is urged on by her sister, Lara, (Sarah Goldberg) a self confessed slut, to let her hair down. Miss Lilly's life is revolutionised when she meets Richard (William Kemp) the handsome father of one of her most outspoken, young students, Jordan (Daniel Roche or Milo Rechler) who has recently moved with his father from South Africa after his mother has been killed by an elephant. The second story follows an Indian scientist, Vandalla (Sheena Patel) who is studying the elephant, Harold (James Russell) who is guilty of the murder of Jordan's mother. In a curious attempt to get Harold to apologize and show he is not dangerous, Vandalla gets a little too involved.

Set in a Southern state in the USA,  the heat of the deep south was coincidentally complemented by the sauna-like conditions of the studio and added to the lustful atmosphere that pervades the play. On a white washed set with various plastic plants in multicoloured pots, the elephant, Harold (James Russell) in a grey vest, stands upstage throughout the performance on a raised section of rostra swinging his arm in the manner of  the trunk of an elephant. Watson has designed the set to make optimal use of space, with Miss Lilly's bed rolling out from beneath the rostra in the second half while a higher raised section upstage right doubles as a bunk bed for Jordan and a running platform for Lara.

Lorna Beckett as Miss Lilly gives a fully embodied depiction in her yellow, floral summer dress of a shy, Sunday school teacher who longs for a sexual awakening. Miss Lilly has lead a sheltered, honest life and Beckett brings to life a character who is emotionally naïve, demonstrating a prim homeliness and assured faith in the good nature of humans. There is just the right mix of excitement and self reproach in Miss Lilly that at times resembles Sister Mary Roberts, the small nun who can sing from Sister Act. Beckett carries in her eyes a sense of justice and American wholesomeness that is cruelly taken advantage of by the South African lothario, Richard. In scenes where she talks to God, there is a powerful sense of her loneliness and a universal sense of the human wish to communicate our desires and fears, which Beckett expresses with humbling optimism and eager frivolity. Her soft voice captures the subtle nuances of a Southern accent without ever straining and her performance throughout is of an exceptionally high quality.

Sarah Goldberg as Lara plays the polar opposite to her sister, wearing garish pink hot pants, skimpy vest tops or lyrca - she is an unstoppable wrecking ball of energy. Goldberg provocatively splays open her legs, rubs herself against tiny seats meant for children and struts about the stage, teasing her sister for her old fashioned sentiments. Goldberg's Lara is uncompromisingly open, at one point she offhandedly declares how she might have an HUV without a hint of worry and goes through a list of men who might have given it to her. Brunstetter creates a character who is funny but alarmingly accurate, the product of a Western, casual sex culture where it is suggested - sex is either religiously suppressed or thrust in your face. Lara even enjoys objectifying herself; at one point going “he swept everythin off my dresser and put me there, just like a coffee mug.” Goldberg injects the play with great vitality but also manages to portray the disillusion with her lifestyle - when a CD of gym music starts skipping as she runs on the spot above the audience, shouting motivational remarks to her sister, who is in the act of losing her virginity, her face drops as she is unable to keep up the facade anymore.

Richard, played by Will Kemp creates the charming Hugh Grant type man of Miss Lilly's dream with a suave appearance, in white shirt, smart trousers and deck shoes. He appears to be a classic gentleman, offering Miss Lilly an invitation to tea however, Kemp proves to be just a classic misogynist who is using Miss Lilly to get over the death of his wife. Kemp plays the role convincingly as a man who seems wrecked by his wife's death but is actually an arrogant man who preys on her naivety. His South African accent works well, and provides just the subtle lilt required.

Vandalla, Sheena Patel in a lab coat and armed with a voice recorder, records her own observations of the elephant in her sing song Indian accent and creates a great sense of fear and excitement through her wide eyed wonder. Patel exploits the comic potential of Vandalla to the full.

Harold, the elephant, played by James Russell, manages to capture a unique essence of an elephant as he swings his arm as through it were a trunk, groping the air and flinging his food around the stage and at the audience. The clink of his chain, a constant reminder of his imprisoned status, works particularly effectively. However, he comes into his own when he ends up on Jordan's bed and begins to speak in a blank, bored way. He asks “How heavy are you?” “60lbs, is the answer” “my dung weighs more than you”, he responds. Brunstetter attempts to give us an insight into an elephant's mind that is very amusing but perhaps a little contrived. But a striking lighting effect at one point captures the grimness of his confines as his greyed face is struck with light.

Miss Lilly Gets Boned is a pleasurable and humorous play and Brunstetter's attempts at magical realism should be recognized, with an elephant bone falling from the ceiling and the elephant talking, but there is a sense that these parts although funny could have more relevance than they achieve.  Brunstetter's dialogue is consistently credible, capturing the nuances and ways of speaking for each character, while all the actor's performances are of an exceptionally high standard. The programme features an article from The New York Times about elephants’ aggressive behaviour and their similarities with human psychology. The elephant in the room, in this case, is ironically literalistic and although her engagement with the issue is admirable, it seems a little under developed. With an ending reminiscent of Ionesco's Rhinoceros, the elephant in this play is not a metaphor, but an attempt to enter their mind state which is loosely connected to the main narrative arc. Miss Lilly Gets Boned seems more concerned with how the human expectations we place on animals and each other, is often let down by the selfish reality of nature.


Will Kemp and Daniel Roche in Miss Lily Gets Boned or the Loss of All Elephant Riders



Finborough Theatre
 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Box Office 0844 847 1652 

Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm. Sunday Matinees at 3.00pm.
Saturday matinees at 3.00pm (from the second week of the run)

Prices for Weeks 1 (22-27 June) – Tickets £13, £9 concessions, except Tuesday Evenings £9 all seats, and Saturday evenings £13 all seats. Previews (22 and 23 June) £9 all seats.











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