Melbourne, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2014

Bare, MFF 2014

1 Comment 30 September 2014

It’s a brave move for a first time theatre company to tackle a well known musical about homosexuality, drugs, sex, body image and pregnancy, but VU Theatre Company’s production of Bare certainly lives up to the original.

Bare is an American musical set in a catholic boarding school and centres on two gay teenagers, Peter and Jason, as they struggle to come to terms with their sexuality.

The story follows them and their classmates as they put on a production of Romeo and Juliet. Jason, played by Leighton Irwin, is a popular athlete who is struggling to accept he is gay for fear of what the church, his parents and his friends will think. Peter (Thomas Bradford) is Jason’s boyfriend, who unlike Jason, is comfortable with his sexuality. Despite Peter’s confidence with his sexuality, Jason will not admit they are together.

It’s a heavy and emotional show that explores adolescent issues in the vein of musicals Spring Awakening and Rent.

Production wise, it is a bit rough around the edges. At some points it was difficult to hear the performers onstage, especially when they were just talking and not belting out high notes. The transitions between scenes were also a bit clunky and it seemed some of the actors forgot their lines, presumably due to nerves.

But when they got it, they really nailed it. The singing and harmonies were amazing with the strongest parts of the show being the big group numbers when their voices all came together. In the first act, they didn’t seem to reach the full emotion that the story needed but as the show progressed they really tapped into the passion of their characters. While the group numbers outshone most of the solos, there were a few that were incredibly powerful.

Jason and Peter’s duet “Best Kept Secret” had the two actors standing in the audience when singing to each other, the sadness, anger and love evident in their facial expressions. Actress Ellen Akers – who plays Ivy, the popular girl who starts dating Jason – was a standout performance all on her own, surprising the audience when she sang her solo song “All Grown Up”, her raw emotion in the performance all the more heartbreaking to watch.

But the main characters weren’t the only ones that shone through. The Priest and Peter’s mum, while secondary characters, had  powerful moments with the leads, especially when Jason goes to see the Priest for guidance and Peter tries to come out to his mum. The character of Sister Chantelle and Lucas, the school drug dealer, were also great because they added comic relief to an otherwise heavy show.

Bare is an influential story and one that is timely at the moment due to the prominence of LGBT issues such as marriage equality. It sets a solid foundation for the performance and the cast in the VU Theatre Company’s production manages to do the story justice.

Their adaption was so engaging that it encouraged me to research more about the original musical. There were a few minor problems that distracted the audience from the story, but we can make an exception considering that they are a new theatre company and that this was their first ever performance.

Indeed, it was a very powerful performance with a very talented cast, and I am sure that once they fix the production problems, the strength of Bare will continue to move to greater heights.

Click here for more information and to purchase tickets to the show.


  1. Bare- Fringe 2014 | Jessica Dickers - October 16, 2014

    […] Originally published on Buzzcuts […]

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