Performance reviews: Only Bones – Daniel Nodder, So…, Melbourne Fringe Festival

Two shows that explore some comedic freestyling using the body as a prop and a darkly absurd premise.
Only Bones. images shows torso of a man on his knees with arm raised and coloured lighting reflected off his clothes, against a black background. We cannot see his face.

Only Bones – Daniel Nodder

Only Bones – Daniel Nodder is a new original work that emerged out of a production that premiered in Lapland and went on to be performed at Edinburgh Fringe in 2014, created by New Zealanders Thom Monckton and Gemma Tweedle, and Finland’s Kallo Collective.

The challenge of the original Only Bones was to create a solo show under one light with no set, no props, no text, no narrative and within one metre squared. Nodder’s Only Bones is version 11 and utilises every part of his elastic body from teeth to toes, together with his clowning and acting abilities, to create a mesmerising comic performance that traverses space and time, exploring macro and micro worlds. 

A single, large, frosted globe, hanging from the roof, is used to light Nodder’s face and parts of his body, as well as being enveloped in his hands to conjure a bioluminescent creature. It also disappears into his T-shirt to create a mini puppet show. Well-chosen sound effects and music choices, along with Nodder’s own non-verbal vocal accompaniment, elevate each element of the physical performance, painting each scene it all its absurdity. In one sequence, he struggles with a magnetic field that contains him, attracting each part of his seemingly magnetised body in an inspired version of the hackneyed mime-in-a-box. The scene is fleshed out by forcefield-like sound effects. In another, his hands dance under the solo light, a jelly-like primordial hand ballet, in time with an upbeat jazz number. 

Nodder is a freestyle street dancer and actor from New Zealand and, although I’m not sure if he’s trained in clowning, his clowning is exceptional. Very early in the work, he brings the light down to shine on his knees, before using them (his knees, that is) to mime a duet to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s ‘Shallow’ from A Star is Born. The audience erupted in giggles, and as his right knee shook with Gaga’s vibrato, I thought to myself: yep, I’m in. This is the type of show that you go to a fringe festival for.  

Only Bones – Daniel Nodder
★★★★ 1/2

Created and performed by: Daniel Nodder
Lighting design: Rebekah de Roo
Produced by: Fay Van Der Meulen

Tickets: $28

Only Bones will be performed in Trades Hall as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival until 22 October 2023.


So… was the story of two brothers from Yorkshire, separated by oceans (one still living in Yorkshire, one who has moved, 15 years prior, to LA), communicating via Zoom after the death of their mother. As they sorted out her endless DVD collection and assorted detritus, they attempted to gain some understanding of who she was in life (which turned out to be pretty problematic, judging by her collection of Nazi paraphernalia). 

Jon Haynes in ‘So’. Photo: Jussi Virkkumaa.

The darkly comic two-hander from award-winning UK theatre company Ridiculusmus was written and performed by co-artistic directors Jon Haynes and David Woods and, despite the structure of the show limiting their acting to being neck-up, chin-lit and through cardboard screen-shaped rectangles facing the audience, the real connection between the two actors was palpable: the evident history they shared as brothers strained by distance, duration of separation and the challenges of dealing with the practicalities and grief of the death of a loved one. 

Material was handed out before the show to contextualise some of the British references, including the founder of the British Union of Fascists Oswald Mosley (OK, fair enough) and Boris Johnson (really?). The show notes provided at the beginning also indicated the play was written as an allegory for Brexit, which I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise – perhaps this would be clearer to a British audience? It felt like a wistfully melancholic reflection about ageing, family and the inadequacies of digital connection as a substitute for real contact. 

Coming to perform a show in the most locked-down city in the world’s Fringe Festival, in a live venue, while performing as if through laptop screens, was a brave move: that blue light was enough to give a Melburnian flashbacks. 

Read: Circus review: Mr.  III三III (Mr Three), NICA, Melbourne Fringe Festival

So… featured quality naturalistic performances and writing that captured all the absurd tragedy of what it means to be family. However, I do think it’s time to leave screen theatre behind. At least in Melbourne. 


Created and performed by: Dr David Woods and Dr Jonathan Haynes

So… was performed at Trades Hall as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival from 11–15 October 2023.

Kate Mulqueen is an actor, writer, musician and theatre-maker based in Naarm (Melbourne). Instagram: @picklingspirits Facebook: @katemulq Twitter: @katemulqueen