Bare: A Pop Opera at the Vaults
With Pride a sparkle or two away, there is no better time to watch Bare: A Pop Opera. Although written in 2000, Damon Intrabarltolo’s music and Jon Hartmere’s lyrics are even more relevant almost 20 years later. The show arrives from a massive production in the USA to the humble stage of The Vaults theatre.
Fearing her son to be gay, Peter’s (Daniel Mack) mother ships him off to a catholic boarding school. But it all goes wrong. For her. Peter falls in love with his best friend Jason (Darragh Cowley), and everyone must deal with the consequences while preparing to perform Romeo and Juliet. Of course, the cliche Shakespeare juxtaposition is there. Bare is built on this foundation of tropes, however this somehow makes a strong structure.
This is a play where the supporting cast is much more talented than the main actors. The weakest singer is Mack, who sometimes tries to disguise flat notes as emotion, and the strongest is Stacy Francis, who plays the charismatic Sister Chantelle. But she was a finalist on The X Factor USA, so her talent is unsurprising. When it comes to acting, Tom Hier is one of the strongest, bringing believability to the stereotypical nice guy role of Matt – although rivals in the performance, both Izzy (Lizzie Emery), the misunderstood popular girl, and Nadia (Georgie Lovatt), the well-understood outsider, shine equally as bright, demonstrated by the applause following every solo. They are almost as bright as the lights that blind the audience at some points.
This makes the staging awkward, especially when the divide means that the actors often have their backs to the crowd. The band is divided, too, enclosed in darkness, which makes it seem like there is a backing tape, rather than live music. The sound system also overpowers the vocals at some points, resulting in some true angsty teenage mumbling. The positioning of the microphones, making the characters seem like they have a third alien eye growing out of their foreheads, only adds to the disconnect. However, Stuart Rogers’s choreography is connected, with everyone moving in synch. You can’t fault nightmarish rave dancing.
In the closing scene, the actors thankfully break their questionable American accents to highlight the suicide rate in young, LQBTQ+ adolescents. This makes the events of the play feel all too real. Despite Julie Atherton’s clumsy directing, the message is one which should be heard firsthand, particularly in this generation.
Photo: Tom Grace
Bare: A Pop Opera is at the Vaults from 21st June until 4th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.