BARE A POP OPERA tells the story of a gay teenage boy, Peter, and his life at a Catholic boarding school. The show follows the struggle he feels about wanting to come out to his mother and friends, while his roommate, who he is involved with, wants to keep their relationship a secret. The story itself is moving, and sadly still feels relevant today, but it lacks the depth that it seems to be aiming for. Other storylines are featured but none seem to be fully developed. We are introduced to characters who are then not really explored, making their inclusion seem superfluous.
The Vaults is currently home to this production of BARE. While the venue itself has a really cool atmosphere, it ends up creating problems for the show. The stage used is long and narrow with a triangular part protruding out into the audience. This created problems before the show even started, with some audience members having to clamber over each other to their seats. Once the show began the issues with the staging became more apparent. Action would often take place at either end of the stage, resulting in the actors having their backs to one half of the audience. This potentially may have led to some of the sound problems, with lyrics often not being clear over the music. As the stage was so narrow, the ‘background chatter’ that the ensemble were often partaking in was sometimes more audible than the actors performing the scene, which was distracting.
There were some incredible performances; Stacy Francis totally stole the show as Sister Chantelle. With a phenomenal voice and fantastic comedic delivery, she carried every scene that she was in. Jo Napthine shone in the second act in the role of Peter’s mother, Claire. The other stand out performances came from some of the younger cast. Lizzie Emery was able to take the role of the ‘pretty girl’ Ivy and give her some depth, and Georgie Lovatt and Tom Hier were both vocally brilliant and massively underused. The chemistry between the lovers Peter and Jason, played by Daniel Mack Shand and Darragh Cowley, seemed to be lacking and was only really convincing in the scenes where they argued.
The strongest part of the production came at the very end, which was incredibly poignant and moving and gave the show the depth it had been struggling to find up until that point. With the recent homophobic attacks in London and the arguments about whether LGBTQ+ issues should be taught in schools, it feels like this is the right time for this show to be in London and hopefully it will find its feet before the end of its run.
Reviewed by Stephanie Mansell
Photo: Tom Grace
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