The Vaults, London – until 4 August 2019
Bare is a pop-rock chronicle of ill-fated gay love at a Roman Catholic boarding school. It focuses on issues including bullying, depression, homophobia and stigmatisation. The score is often touching and intricate and the young cast mostly do a fantastic job of performing it earnestly.
Having premiered Off-Broadway and receiving various productions around the world, the show has gained a considerable cult following so this London production has been highly anticipated. Showing at Waterloo’s Vaults, the theatrical experience is somewhat immersive as the action comes at you from all angles. Whilst most of the time this is effective, at moments the novelty of peering through heads to see what’s going on does wear off, and the large, long stage feels underused.
Personally the pacing of this show is what lets it down. Act one is all about the set up and then everything major happens in act two. For this reason there are times, especially in the first half, where you feel uninvested. However, there are moments which stand out, namely Georgie Lovatt who is making her professional debut in the show, before she graduates. Her touching and humorous portrayal of Nadia is marvellous to see and she provides outstanding vocals to match.
Lizzie Emery gives a well-rounded performance as Ivy and beautifully highlights the internal struggles many people face growing up. Her well nuanced performance is furthered by her fantastic solo, ‘All Grown Up’ in act 2 which is a goosebump-inducing vocal powerhouse moment. Tom Hier is wonderfully motivated as Matt and gives a magnetic performance whenever he is on stage.
As the lead couple, Daniel Mack Shand (Peter) and Darragh Crowley (Jason) have a simmering relationship. Whilst facing the struggles of being oppressed for their sexuality and struggling to come out to those around them, it’s clear they are trying to use their love to keep them grounded. Whilst there are moments of clear affection between them, most of the time they feel a little disconnected. The audience never really see a pure moment of love between them all because there’s always something going on with them. Whilst of course this is partly the point, it does mean we root for the pair less. However, Crowley’s performance is excellent both vocally and acting wise.
Andrew Ellis’ lighting is effective, mostly so in the second act. The angelic murals on the wall are lit up at crucial times and the contrasts between cool and warm are well done.
Overall this is a musical of two halves. The performances are strong and the music itself is extremely clever and mostly engaging, but at the same time there are moments that drag. For fans of Bare this is a must to tick off your list, but I suspect it will be a bit of a marmite show.
photo credit: Tom Grace