Bare is a coming-of-age pop rock musical that first premiered in 2000. Julie Atherton directs a new gritty production staged underground at Waterloo in The Vaults.
Famous for its powerful and emotionally charged score, it’s a production that tells the story of a group of teenagers growing up in a heavily Catholic boarding school in America.
The talent in this production is undeniable. Darragh Cowley and Daniel Mack Shand lead the cast as Jason and Peter, two teenage boys that fall in love. With religion, family values and societal pressures stacked against them, we watch they attempting to navigate their emotions and feelings when they feel as if they can’t be themselves.
After his exceptional performance as Melchior in Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre, I knew Darragh Cowley would be able to bring compelling acting and strong vocals to the role of Jason. He leads the production with an completely consuming performance that draws the audience into the highs and lows of growing up.
Opposite him Daniel Mack Shand brings a tender vulnerability to the role of Peter, an introverted young man who is frustrated with his inability to break out his shell. Lizzie Emery is superb as Ivy, the unlucky in love teenager that attracts the hearts of many of the young lads. She has an exquisite voice and brings sincerity to the role.
The stand out moments in the show belong to Stacey Francis’ performance as Sister Chantelle. The American X Factor contestant has an impressive set of pipes on her as she commands the stage with her triumphant vocals – particularly in the gospel numbers.
The Vaults is superbly immersive and it’s the perfect venue to stage this edgy production. With the pop/rock style music mixed with teenage angst and frustration, it’s a production that needs to feel edgy and rough around the edges. Whilst the venue feels right, I found the staging questionable. With the cast up on a raised stage that lacks depth, and an aisle down the middle, it doesn’t quite feel right.
It’s quite a clunky stage too, so I’d have stripped it back and staged it on the floor the the audience surrounding the action – feeling part of the story. It’s almost a shame to be in such an immersive venue yet put the cast on another level to the audience.
Bare is a musical with an electric soundtrack that is done justice by this remarkably talented cast. With a coming-of-age story that everyone can resonate with, it tackles the complexity of teenage emotions in a poignant way. It’s an important story to be told with a truly touching moment at the end that proves that the issues the LGBT+ community face are still so painfully relevant today.
Bare is on at The Vaults and runs until the 4th of August, tickets and information can be found on their website.