Bare: A Pop Opera @ The Vaults*

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Tickets and more information: https://www.thevaults.london/bare
Booking until: 4th August
Production Photos by: Tom Grace
Run time: 2hrs 30mins.

Bare: A Pop Opera is a sung-through musical with a pop/rock score by Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere that takes place in a catholic school where a group of teenagers are putting on a production of Romeo & Juliet. At the centre of this group are Peter and Jason, who are hiding their relationship in fear of backlash. However, when Peter feels ready to come out, Jason turns to a path of self destruction.

The score, even if a bit long at times, is really lovely and feels very reflective of teenage angst and fury, in the same vein of topics and a rock sounding score like Spring Awakening as an example. I heard in the interval some people saying this is similar to High School Musical (???) which I can assure you, it is anything but fluffy, light hearted fun covering themes of drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, sexuality and death. The cast, even if a bit overpopulated at times on such a small stage, are fantastic with Daniel Mack Shand as Peter and Lizzie Emery as Ivy giving incredible stand out performances, especially Lizzie Emery who gives a goosebump inducing rendition of ‘All Grown Up’. Stacy Francis is also excellent as Sister Chantelle, a very funny and very sassy nun at the school.

Stacy Francis, courtesy of Tom Grace (05)

Here’s my main problem with this show though: the choice of venue is not right for this show. The one thing I love about the Vaults is how interchangeable the venue is, having been here a few times. Where this show takes place, is essentially in the bar if this were the Vault Festival. This also means the band are playing in the section of the bar that’s upstairs but still viewable to everyone. And because of this, the band completely overpowers the performances, particularly in act one which made the sound quality turn awful. Not ideal when the entire show in sung-through! It also didn’t help that the stage was massive and the only way to get a complete view of the stage was to sit as far back as possible. If you’re near the front, you’re going to spend a lot of time turning your head from side to side so you have an idea of what’s going on.

Georgia Bradshaw, Athena Collins, Beccy Lane, Tom Scanlon, ensemble, courtesy of Tom Grace (08)

I also felt like the plot tried to do too much at once. For instance, there’s a whole self harm storyline that’s got a whole song dedicated to it early on in act one, that’s never mentioned again. I also feel like there wasn’t really enough focus on the faith aspect, as there are a couple of instances where the students question their faith, which I do wish was expanded more instead of a few filler scenes of Ivy being slutshamed, for instance.

Lizzie Emery, courtesy of Tom Grace (01)

That being said though, I did ultimately enjoy the show even if it was a bit long and overpopulated. I found the show really emotionally driven and I’m glad I got to witness some stellar performances, particularly from the ones who are just at the beginning of the career.

Until next time,

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