Bare at the Union
Despite being constricted by the confined space of the Union Theatre, the high production values of Paul Taylor-Mills’ rock musical Bare fully immerses the audience into dramatic teen angst from start to finish. The cast performances, staging, acoustic accompaniment and score come together flawlessly to bring the script’s seemingly one-dimensional, stereotypical characters to life in a relatable way.
Michael Vinsen is passionate and convincing as kind-hearted Peter, and never breaks character. Longing after his boyfriend Jason (Ross William Wild), Vinsen’s gaze is telling of what it means to be in love at such a young age.
The leads’ enactments are immaculate and consistent, but the strength of the acting also extends to the minor supporting characters. Yvette Robinson as Claire, Peter’s mother, expresses a myriad of emotions with just her facial expressions and the tone of her voice, as she comes to terms with the news of her youngest child’s sexuality.
Executed with great attention to detail, the staging of Jason’s confession to the priest is provocative and symbolic of the complicated nature of the situation. Jason, searching for empathy and in need of compassion, sits facing the priest within the confessional, but the priest never relents, only ever looking ahead.
The band’s complementing melody seamlessly adds dimension to rudimentary lines. When Ivy (Lily-Jane Young) presses Jason to follow her to rehearsal, she simply calls him over, but her words are underwritten with a seductive guitar riff that highlights the sex appeal she harnesses to get her way.
The strongest, most appealing element of this production is the wide range of musical adaptations offered. All 37 numbers tell a story with vibrant routines that depict the feelings and hardships the protagonists endure.
Are you there? finds Peter and classmate Matt (Dales Evans) united in their desire to be noticed and accepted by their romantic partners. Sharing in a bottle of holy wine, the pair asks God for answers and direction. This slow-paced duet is driven by emotion and an uncertainty that also leaves you wondering.
The Wedding Bells dream sequence initially illustrates Peter’s hope to someday marry Jason, but quickly turns into a nightmare when he sees that he is no longer the betrothed. With an upbeat melody, the movements of the bride and groom, Jason and Ivy, are robotic – an allusion to Peter’s dread.
With energy and heart, this rendition of Bare will restore your faith.
Bare is on at the Union Theatre until 25th May 2013. For further information or to book, visit here.