Blue Bones


Blue Bones

Brisbane Powerhouse & PlayLab

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

May 4 – 13 2017


Reviewed by Katy Cotter 



Closing night of Merlynn Tong’s Blue Bones saw the Visy Theatre packed with people. I had been not-so-patiently awaiting this co-production by PlayLab and the Brisbane Powerhouse, and there was much excitement in the room. I was proud as punch for my friend, Merlynn.

In 2015, I saw Tong perform her first play Ma Ma Ma Mad, a one-woman show about her mother’s suicide. She is such a generous artist, sharing true stories of her life that are equal parts heart-wrenching and hilarious. It amazes me, what this young woman has been through, and the light she continues to generate.


Blue Bones is a story about young love and the horrors of domestic violence. This is yet another piece of Tong’s heart she offers up, creating art to interrogate and make peace with her past. She conjures up characters on stage with amazing physicality and distinction that help us follow the story and envision her world. She plays friends, teachers, family, morphing from one into the next with ease and clarity.


The play is set in Singapore and a projection screen is used to transport the audience to different locations. From a stark school cafeteria, a grungy dark playground, to a stark and grey overpass, images flashed up and accompanied Tong as she revisited her adolescence in a desperate fight to wrench an old lover from the marrow of her bones.



Ian Lawson’s direction of this work was nuanced and gripping, allowing moments to hit hard when needed. A favourite image of mine was when lines of electric green light cut through the space and Tong transformed into her deceased mother, speaking and guiding her from the grave. That is, at least, what I took from it. It happened a few times throughout the play and it cast a murky haze over me. I felt as if Tong was searching for something…for strength from her mother? It was an entrancing effect, and perhaps it was open to interpretation. I would have to read the play again – and just letting you know it is available for purchase from PlayLab! 


There was something about this work that resonated with me, and it took a while for me to articulate. Blue Bones is certainly an emotional rollercoaster. It is beautiful, funny, yet shockingly confronting. There are lines blurred, bruises exposed, though an important message of hope and redemption shines at the end. This story is about a young girl learning about love when all the odds are against her. A girl who was broken, soul and body left for dead, and she learnt to dance again.



Tong is a captivating performer and one hell of a brave woman.

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