Blue Bones

Venue Lennox Theatre
Dates 27 August - 29 August 2020
Category Live Event


All performances of Blue Bones have been postponed until further notice. Information about this rescheduled event will come at a later date.

If you have booked tickets to this event, our Box Office team will be in contact to arrange to have your tickets either set aside for the rescheduled date or refunded.

Riverside presents A Playlab Theatre Production
By Merlynn Tong

‘I saw my insides today. I found Tom, my first love, in my bones.’

When a woman finds scars left by her ex-boyfriend of many years etched into her bones, she begins a turbulent journey to unpack her past and discover how he got under her skin.

Based on the true story of two teenagers’ romance as it blossoms then warps in the heat of bustling Singapore, Blue Bones is a vibrant, uplifting one-woman show told with incredible honesty by Merlynn Tong (White Pearl). With multiple characters, song and arcade dance games, this captivating production is a whirlwind of love and naivety, violence and courage.

Against the backdrop of Singapore with all its beauty, rigidity and insistent chaos, Blue Bones will enchant and disturb, and perhaps even wake the stories dormant in your bones.

FYI this production has a complete lock out. Please ensure you arrive with ample time prior to the show. Blue Bones contains low level coarse language, a complete blackout and haze and explores the themes of domestic violence, depression and suicide. Recommended for ages 16+

Writer and Performer

Professionally, what’s your goal?
My goal is to work full-time as an actor/ playwright who gets to create works and characters that make my heart sing!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
It was a cheesy but really powerful one. I was 14-years-old and my mother has just been pronounced dead after suicide. I was at the hospital in a state of shock when an Acting teacher at the time, Faith, rang me. Her voice was a river of power and strength that I leant into—all consolations prior to that point seemed devoid of meaning, empathy and effect on me. Faith said to me in her husky voice, “This will make you stronger. I see you. You are strong. Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” I know it’s a cliché saying now but at that time of my life, those words kept me breathing.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?
After my previous one-woman-show, Ma Ma Ma Mad, which was about my mother’s suicide and my attempt at it, I was approached by an audience member. My show was at Cybercity 2002: a Chinese restaurant, arcade and karaoke venue. We had a conversation amongst pool tables, fried rice and Canto-pop songs. Despite the chaos around us, we connected. Something incredible happened between us. By end of the conversation he held me, thanked me and told me that he was going to choose living. The implication of what he said hit me, hard. I went home and wept. If all the work for making that show was just for him, it would have been enough.

What’s your favourite art work?
Too many to name. I yearn for works that make my world stop, demand I reconsider my preconceptions and move me so deeply I feel it in my bones. I lean a lot into visual art and music when I create.

What themes do you pursue?
I once heard that every work we create is us trying to tell the same story in a different way. That could well be true for me! I didn’t quite choose these themes but my work seems to revolve around survival and thriving, awakening, sex, female power, Singapore as a country and concept, love and hope.

How has your practice changed over time?
I’m really young in my practice. But I am definitely more focused now with a stronger belief that I can actually make shit happen. I am also diving deeper into the land of fiction, I’m falling in love with dialogues; my next play will be my first fictional multi-hander.

Why do you do what you do?
It’s what my heart, body and soul demands. I just try to listen and follow their longings.

Merlynn Tong is a Chinese Singaporean Actor and Playwright based in Brisbane, Australia. Some of her performances include Viral (2016, Shock Therapy Productions, Gold Coast Arts Centre), Straight White Men (2016, La Boite Theatre), Ma Ma Ma Mad (2015, Wonderland Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse), The Theory of Everything (2015, Brisbane Festival), The Wizards from Oz (2015, Taiwan, Taoyuan International Children’s Festival), Hot Brown Honey (2015, Judith Wright Centre), The C Word (2014, Dir: Todd MacDonald, Metro Arts), American Music Club (2014, Brisbane Festival), The Golden Show (2012, Japan, Dairakudakan Dance Group) and hosting Out of the Box Children’s Festival (2014, QPAC).

As a playwright, she has recently published two of her one-woman shows, Ma Ma Ma Mad (2015) and Blue Bones (2016). Ma Ma Ma Mad is based on the true story of her mother’s suicide and Blue Bones is a semi-auto biography of teenage romance as it blossoms in the bustling streets of Singapore and soon, combusts into a dynamo of domestic violence. Merlynn is currently working with Playlab and Playwriting Australia (Lotus Programme) to create her third play, Hot Wet Void, a sticky journey through the confessions of migrants living in humid Singapore.

Director and Dramaturg

Ian is a Queensland based Director and Dramaturg with a focus on new work. He is the Artistic Director/ CEO of Playlab, an organisation dedicated to the development, production and publication of new-writing theatre. Ian was the Associate Director at La Boite Theatre Company (2002 – 2008), where he managed the Creative and Professional Development programs and directed numerous productions including My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe, Urban Dingoes, Last Drinks, The Narcissist, The Danger Age and the return season of The Narcissist for the Sydney Theatre Company. Ian also directed the critically acclaimed gothic contemporary performance piece The Pineapple Queen.

In 2016, Ian directed the return season of JUTE’s Bastard Territory for Queensland Theatre after selling out the original seasons in Darwin and Cairns, Hotel Beche de Mer for the Arts Centre Gold Coast and Hopelessly Devoted for Glen Street in Sydney. Also for JUTE, Ian directed What Are the Odds? For the Queensland Music Festival Ian was the Associate Director and Designer on Bobcat Dancing and Bobcat Magic, and directed radio plays. Ian has worked with numerous organisations including PWA, Brisbane Festival, UQ, Griffith University, and Screen Queensland (where he worked in the Writers Room as a director and script consultant, and on the Low Budget Feature Initiative as a mentor).


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Professionally, what’s your goal?
My goal is to make exciting theatre.  I love working with other creative people that have a shared aesthetic and philosophy. I step into various roles depending on what the project needs. Whether that be as a actor, director, stage manager, dancer, choreographer or just an idiot in a leotard pumping up the audience.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
At the end of the day it’s ‘a play’. Sometimes as artists we can take our work very seriously and get anxious and stressed. But at the end of the day it’s not brain surgery, we’re making art to inspire other people and the best art comes from the joy of play, even the most tragic stories.

Why do you do what you do?
Basically I do what I do because it makes me happy. And I’m good at it.

Neridah Waters is a choreographer, performer and theatre maker. She trained as an actor at UWS Nepean then in Japan with Tadashi Suzuki and Frank Theatre. She has toured extensively across Australia and internationally including work in Belgium, The Netherlands, Canada, England and the USA with projects including Lala Parlour’s Tarnished, The Common People Dance Project and boy girl wall and is a founding member of The Brides of Frank, Lala Parlour and The Escapists. Her performance work includes Sacre Bleu with Queensland Theatre Company and The Dance of Jeremiah, The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay, Attack of the Attacking Attackers! and Johnno for La Boite, Tashi for Imaginary Theatre and Railway Wonderland for NORPA. As a choreographer Neridah’s work includes: The Venetian Twins, The Cherry Orchard, Away, The Glass Menagerie and Show for Queensland Theatre Company and Boomtown, Under This Sky and The Isaac Project for Queensland Music Festival.

Video Designer

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Professionally, what’s your goal?
To find the freedom to make work on artistic impulse. To make work that connects people. I love what David Foster Wallace says – for people to “become less alone inside”…

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
It wasn’t given to me, but –
“You are what you love, not what loves you.” -Donald Kaufman

What themes do you pursue?
For theatre, I pursue a sense of presence – for the work to dynamically exist with the audience. For the audience to feel allowed to ‘be there’ and for their attendance to hold significance. For Blue Bones, I think the act of sharing between Merlynn and the audience is its most exciting feature. We’re here gathered as a community to participate in an important act of storytelling.

How has your practice changed over time?
My tastes have gotten stranger over time. I’m less enthusiastic about everything, and more painfully passionate about certain things.

Why do you do what you do?
I say that I’m a theatre artist because I think I’d make a terrible dentist. But really this all just happened and I can’t figure out what else I’d do instead.

Nathan Sibthorpe is a contemporary performance-maker and AV Designer. He was previously Queensland Theatre Company’s Geek-In-Residence in 2012-14; the Festival Director of Short+Sweet Queensland from 2013-16; and an Australia Council JUMP artist in 2012. Nathan is currently the Creative Director for Markwell Presents Cinematic Theatre Company, and the Co-Director of Counterpilot Transmedia Performance Collective.

As an AV Designer, notable credits include: Tyrone & Lesley in a Spot (Qld Cabaret Festival 2016); Viral (Shock Therapy Productions 2016); He Dreamed a Train (Brisbane Powerhouse 2014); and The Social Me (Artslink QLD, 2012). As a performance-maker and dramaturg, other credits include: This Is Capital City (Brisbane Powerhouse, 2015); Total Dik (Queensland Theatre Company, 2013); and Some Dumb Play (Metro Arts, 2012). Nathan teaches performance studies at QUT, where he holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts with distinction, and where he is currently undertaking a Masters Degree in contemporary performance.

Lighting Designer

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Professionally, what’s your goal?
To be fluent in the language of light.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Allow curiosity to teach one how to ask the right questions.

What’s your favourite art work?
Not a specific art work but favourite artists would be Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Turner, Monet and Frida Kahlo.

What themes do you pursue?
As complete an understanding of life, art, science and the universe as my time on earth allows.

How has your practice changed over time?
A belief in my ability to judge my own work has freed me of a need to seek peer approval. A growing joy in assisting others to learn.

Why do you do what you do?
To find a way to codify the linguistics of light as beautifully as poetry and as precisely as the language of maths.

For the past 40 years David Walters has worked as a professional Lighting Designer in Iceland and Australia. His work experience spans lighting designs for opera, theatre, ballet, dance, puppetry, circus, exhibitions, major events and architectural installations. From 1978 to 1986 David worked as a freelance lighting designer in Iceland where he is recognised as one of the pioneers in this field. In 1986 David returned to Australia to take up a position as Resident Lighting Designer with the Queensland Theatre Company. Since 1990, as a freelance designer, he has worked extensively throughout Australia and designed for the Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Handspan, Playbox, La Boite, Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus, Nimrod, Company B, Expressions, Queensland Ballet, Australian Ballet, Opera Queensland, The Powerhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Zen Zen Zo, Topology and Bell Shakespeare Company. His work has toured extensively both in Australia and overseas. He has lectured in lighting design at several universities and is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology. Throughout his professional career David has maintained close ties with Iceland where he has worked for the National Theatre, the National Opera and the Reykjavik City Theatre

Sound Designer

Guy Webster HeadShotProfessionally, what’s your goal?
In my professional practice I aim to satisfy my own obsessions with music and sound while assisting the truth of the story to shine through.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Go for the crescendo.  Even if you think it’s in the way.  I still struggle to achieve this without thinking, ‘I see what you are doing there’.

What’s your favourite art work?
This is not possible to narrow down to a single work:
Rodin – Crouching Woman;
Brian Eno & Harold Budd – The Pearl;
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme and Ascension 1 & 2,
Paul Vo – Wond.
This is a potentially very long list but I will stop there

What themes do you pursue?
Truth, justice and how to make it feel like it is really there

How has your practice changed over time?
In my early career, I was dancer and folk singer.  Now I just make silly noises and try to sit very still.

Guy works across the mediums of theatre, dance, sound art, installation and new media. During his early career as a dancer & choreographer Guy developed his practice as a composer and musician.  His work has since featured in theatres, festivals and galleries throughout Australia, Japan, Europe, UK, USA and China and his live performances have shared the stage with the likes of Beth Orton, Ed Harcourt, Powderfinger, The Cruel Sea, Mad Professor and Sarah Blasko. Guy has created music and sound for many theatre & dance works with Queensland Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, La Boite Theatre Company, Shake & Stir Theatre, The Brisbane Festival, Bleach Festival, Dance North, Jute Theatre Co, Backbone Youth Arts, State Library of Qld, Out of the Box Festival, Shock Therapy, Lisa O’Neill, Goat Track Theatre, Stella Electrika, Wilde Applause & Red Shoes. Guy is also a founding member of new media performance and installation group, The Transmute Collective.

(Stages 5 – 6)

From the Program Coordinator…

Told from the youthful point of view of a young woman in Singapore in the 1990s, Blue Bones is a very rare example of a work that uses humour and fantastic stagecraft to capture the slide in a young relationship from romance to abuse. An excellent supporting text for human experiences in English, demonstration of monologue in drama or a great case study for PDHPE topics, the show will lead your students on an incredible journey of understanding.

Curriculum Links and Resources

Download the Curriculum Links here: Blue Bones Curriculum Links

Riverside’s Risk Assessment

Download the Risk Assessment here: Risk Assessment 2020

Download a sample of a generic risk assessment here: Sample – Generic Risk Assessment


Download information about access at Riverside here: Access at Riverside

Script for purchase is available here

Education Notes are available here 

“Merlynn Tong, along with director Ian Lawson, has created a very special, outstanding theatrical work … original, idiosyncratic and ultimately uplifting. Indeed, this is an absorbing show that needs to be seen by as many young women (and men) as possible in reminder that whatever its shade, no bruise is okay.” – Meredith Walker, Blue Curtains Brisbane

“Merlynn’s performance is captivating and slides effortlessly from brutal, to joyous, upsetting, light and even funny … This is an incredibly powerful, disturbing story that is sure to get under your skin and leave you shaken.” – Jemma Lanyon, Aussie Theatre 

“Huge congratulations to Merlynn Tong, Ian Lawson and the whole team at Playlab for a sensational opening of Blue Bones at the Powerhouse last night. I think it is one of the most important productions to hit town in recent times, for all sorts of reasons.” – Stephen Carleton

“Tong is brilliant and effortless as she tells her story…It is clear that Merlynn Tong is becoming a very talented icon in Brisbane’s Artistic community.” – ArtsHub

“Merlynn is a vital and unique performer – an emerging talent to watch.” – La Boite Theatre


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Dates and Times:

Thursday 27 August at 7:45pm
Friday 28 August at 7:45pm
Saturday 29 August at 2:15pm & 7:45pm


1 hour 30 minutes (No interval)

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