Summerhall, Edinburgh, Scotland

07/08/2016 - 28/08/2016

Te Auaha, Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

12/03/2019 - 16/03/2019

Turner Centre, 43 Cobham Road, Kerikeri

04/04/2019 - 04/04/2019

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2019

UPSURGE Bay of Islands Festival 2019

Production Details

‘…extraordinary inventiveness created by a limitless imagination…’ (

Only Bones is an award-winning new production by New Zealanders Thomas Monckton and Gemma Tweedie and Finland-based physical theatre company Kallo Collective.

Only Bones uses body manipulation and bendy physicality to create an original piece of physical theatre. Its quirky low-tech aesthetic involves one performer, one technician, one light, no text, and a stage area of little more than 1m².

With head-juggling and jellyfish this is a hypnotic show about a lot, using very little.

[The NZ premiere of Only Bones was double-billed with Chameleon and is reviewed here.]

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016
Summerhall (Venue 26)
Aug 5-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-28
Book here  

NZ Fringe 2019 

Only Bones premiered in Lapland before delighting audiences at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe. It has featured in an art museum in Mexico City, in a converted prison camp in French Guiana, and in 14 different countries around the world.

★★★★★ “A meticulously choreographed piece of art. Excellently executed and magically mesmerising.” – Everything Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Tapere Iti at Te Auaha, 65 Dixon Street, Wellington
Tuesday 12 – Saturday 16 March 2019
7:00pm & 8.30pm
General Admission $20.00
Concession $15.00
Fringe Addict $14.00 
Wheelchair access available

The Turner Centre, Kerikeri
Thursday 4 April 2019
6.00 pm
EARLY $30 – FULL $34
plus service fee
Suitable for 14+

Theatre , Physical ,

45 mins

Astonishing physicality — no bones about it

Review by Alan Scott 05th Apr 2019

Peter Brook told us that all that was needed for an act of theatre to be engaged was for a man to walk across an empty space, while someone else was watching him. In Only Bones, presented as part of Upsurge, the Bay of Islands Arts Festival, Thomas Monckton slims it down even further.

All it takes him to begin his piece is a very tight circle of stage, an overhead light bulb and a pair of hands. But they are not hands really for Monckton is a master of deception. His extremities are marine animals weaving and wending their way in the blue realm of the sea and before along, in a neat turn, the fish are reeling in the audience as we are captured by the performer’s physical dexterity and his comedic, often eccentric storytelling.

For the hands are followed by feet — all three of them — and then we have knees which move of their own accord and fingers which fight and argue. The body follows and it inflates and deflates. All manner of contortions and movements are used to present sketches, some of which tell an obvious story and some which you have to invest with your own meaning. 

What makes Monckton’s theatre riveting is a simplicity which is, paradoxically, quite extraordinary. Life is no bed of roses for any of us, but our problems seem insignificant when we are presented with a man who can’t keep his head upright between his shoulders. 

It flops forward, drops backward, flips onto one shoulder, then the next. It rolls round and round at a frighteningly crazy pace, like a ball tethered to a piece of string. The head wobbles and wobbles until finally our struggling protagonist manages to balance it perfectly in the middle. The audience’s relief is palpable. But then his tongue plops out and he can’t get it back in his mouth and another mad saga starts anew. This is clowning in another realm.

What is also quite exceptional about Only Bones is the interplay of the soundscape and the performer’s body. The relationship between the different sounds and the various movements is impressive and the precision with which the two integrate somewhat remarkable.

Thomas Monckton is clown, actor, story teller and contortionist all rolled into a perfect whole. There is nobody in New Zealand quite like him really – no bones about it.


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Jaw-dropping, eye-opening entertainment

Review by John Smythe 13th Mar 2019

The extraordinary Thomas Monckton (Moving Stationery, The Pianist) is back with a developed version – twice the length – of the Only Bones piece he first tested in the 2015 Fringe, along with Chameleon created and performed with Gemma Tweedie who this time contributes from the operator’s desk. 

In physical terms Thomas moves, in minimalistic increments, from isolation to completeness; from discomposure to composing himself; from miscreation to becoming a whole functioning human being. 

In metaphysical – or do I mean metaphorical – terms he is the plaything of an unseen creator, being worked and reworked in awkward attempts to get him right. There is also a point where he, at a vestigial level of being, has a go at creating things himself, by way of taking animal sounds, including from us in the audience, and attempting to blend two into one: a salutary sequence.

Ironically for something called Only Bones 1.0, the gentle opening sequence suggests invertebrate sea creatures. Then what – three legs? Or are those red toe-tips Pukeko beaks? A rich vein of humour ripples through what initially seem to be abstract concepts that provoke our human need to interpret them.

The progression through different parts of the body is simultaneously comical, awe-inspiring and nerve-wracking: has Thomas gone too far this time? Is this bit still connected to that bit? How is it possible to isolate body parts so completely and move them so independently? As for what the amorphous trial-and-error creator does to Thomas’s visage – could anyone’s face be that malleable if they toned all the muscles in it?

This entire exploration-cum-journey-cum-evolution of the human form happens inside a circle about a metre in diameter, over which a shaded lamp dangles, at the edge of which a chair is placed. While it’s seems lo-tech, there is great precision in the use of light and sound. The soundscape adds … gristle, let’s say, to the action in ways that have us empathising nervously – i.e. with nerve-ends responding.

Only Bones 1.0 offers jaw-dropping, eye-opening proof that a human being in a small space is all that’s needed to produce astonishing entertainment. Thomas Monkton is an extraordinary talent. 


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Who knew kneecaps could be funny?

Review by Acushla-Tara Kupe 12th Aug 2016

Only Bones has been created and designed by New Zealanders Thomas Monckton and Gemma Tweedie in association with theatre company Kallo Collective. A fan of Thomas Monckton since seeing his previous shows Moving Stationery and The Pianist I am really looking forward to seeing his latest creation.

Described as “a quirky low-tech aesthetic involving one performer, one technician, one light, no text, and a stage area of little more than 1m² … a hypnotic show about a lot, using very little”, I can’t wait to see this all on stage. 

Thomas Monckton is a comedic genius and the modern King of physical theatre. He has incredible control over every inch of his body and watching him perform is both hilarious, as he perfectly hits every comedic beat, and utterly mind-blowing as he manipulates his body in such astounding ways it’s hard to even comprehend how he does it.

The training and skill it must take to execute such feats is undeniably clear as he uses every part of his body to send the audience into fits of laughter or stunned silence. He deals with outside noises and latecomers like a pro and interacts with the audience to create some great vocal comedy moments as well. 

The design of this show beautifully and effectively supports and enhances Monckton’s performance throughout. The ingenious use of a single light perfectly illuminates the action and is almost a character in its own right at times. The light, a shaded bulb hanging from the ceiling, changes in colour and intensity throughout the show and its use is stark, subtle and just perfect.

The sound design by Tuomas Norvio supports the action well and is used to enhance the physical performance on stage. At times there is silence, all we hear are intakes of breath or a small huff from Monckton. At other times there is a full blown soundscape that seems to dictate the movement or a small pulsating track that pulls the audience in.

A white circle on the ground reminds us that the stage area used is minimal. Monckton leaves the circle a handful of times but always in a blackout and only to pick up the odd prop. For the most part the stage is bare, save from a couple of props and a chair. In the latter half of the show all trimmings are abandoned and we watch only Monckton supported perfectly with light and sound.

The structure of this show works well too, easing us into the wonder of physical theatre with hilarious comedy. This is followed by truly beautiful abstract physical manipulation and eventually dissolves into an absolute, crazy, amazing amalgamation of the two (all of these adjectives are totally necessary). From midway we start to get some kind of a storyline as well which helps to keep the audience engaged after the skit-style variety of the first half hour.

Only Bones is well deserving of the standing ovation it receives. Every aspect of this show is executed perfectly and as always Monckton astounds with his comedic and physical skill. One of the best shows I’ve seen this festival it is entertaining and technically excellent. Seriously: don’t miss it!

(Here is a link to a review of Only Bones’ development season in Wellington.)


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