Music by Damon Intrabartolo
Directed and choreographed by Hannah Barn
Musical direction by Matt Reid
The Depot Theatre
142 Addison Road, Marrickville
Season: 30 November – 17 December
Being a teenager is hard. Trying to understand your sexuality as a teenager is really hard, exacerbated by intense social stigma, threats of harassment and violence and religious pressure. And it's not often that this is depicted honestly in theatre and screen, and that someone gets it right. Bare the musical has acquired a cult following and is infrequently staged, but it's a work that should be seen. Hannah Barn's production of the show unites fantastic performances with an artistic integrity that resounds truthfully. It's something powerful.
The musical is set at a Catholic boarding school and sees the emergence of the romantic relationship between Peter and Jason. This occurs in a heteronormative community where people are demonised for being LGBTQ. While the circumstances may be heightened in this Catholic context, I'd imagine the emotion, social stigma and immense pressure would be transferable to innumerable contexts that LGBTQ people experience in our world every day. The really wonderful thing about this show is that it doesn't surrender to oversimplification for the sake of fitting characters into boxes to make for easy audience understanding. Sexuality often doesn't fit into a cookie cutter mould, and this show captures well the confusion and ambiguity that for some people permeates their understanding of their sexual identity.
Barn's production is excellently cast and delivers well in all acting, singing, dance and production design departments. Barn has clearly brought together a number of strengths to create a very strong show. The performances of both Alex Jeans as Jason and Aaron Robuck as Peter rang true to my ears and achieved an emotional depth that resounded within the audience. No doubt, this story is a tragedy. Natalie Abbott plays Nadia with a fierce voice and poignant emotional range. Her use of humour as a defence mechanism to guard her insecurities and self-doubt is devastating. I felt so deeply for her, and her performance was a highlight of the show for me.
Bare reveals the pain and quiet terror that is wreaked on people grappling with their sexuality. Though I felt the ending of the show was a little abrupt, it ultimately tells a highly compelling story with brilliant musical skill. In a society where queer young people commit suicide with little public outrage in response, Bare is powerful and should be seen. In a society where some LGBTQ people feel they have to conceal their sexuality to avoid harassment, discrimination and violence – it’s not something that can be ignored. It needs to be a part of public conversation to foster understanding of people around us, and a better understanding of ourselves. This production achieves this with esteem.