Theatre Review: Bare - Union Theatre, London ✭✭✭

Union Theatre

Review by Emma Curry

The Union Theatre’s small auditorium was transformed into a Catholic boarding school last night for their new production of bare, a rather uneven rock musical that depicts a group of teenagers attempting to negotiate the trials and tribulations of adolescence within the constraints of a religious upbringing.

The story focuses upon the relationship between two young men, Peter (Michael Vinsen), desperate to be open about his sexuality with his parents and fellow students, and school-stud Jason (Ross William Wild), uncertain and keen to keep their dalliances under wraps to preserve his reputation. Matters become more complicated with the involvement of fellow students Ivy (femme-fatale and interested in Jason), Matt (in love with Ivy and jealous of Jason), Nadia (chubby Goth-girl at war with Ivy), and Lucas (resident drug-dealer), and events build to a somewhat shocking and unexpected finale.
There are some excellent performances from the cast in this fairly conventional set-up, and some incredibly talented singers: Michael Vinsen in particular is fantastic at conveying the emotional nuances of each line, and Hannah Levane gives a wonderfully feisty and powerful performance in her role as Sister Chantelle (and, at one point, the Virgin Mary).

The problem with this musical, for me, was the book. Almost the whole production is sung-through, but the songs aren’t catchy enough to sustain the action, with almost all of them turning into fairly similar ballads. Hannah Levane’s brilliant solo numbers were the only variations on this theme.  The plot is also rather bleak, and particularly in the second half when things become almost unrelentingly grim. I wanted more humour: the (very) few moments of light relief weren’t enough to overcome the general mood of overwrought misery. The subject matter is important and difficult, and absolutely worthy of confronting, but I wished it could have been done in a more nuanced way: the swipes at the Catholic Church in particular felt clumsy and obvious. There were brief, emotionally-true moments, like the painful telephone conversation between Peter and his mother, as he attempted to confess his sexuality and she, knowing what was coming, tried to divert him; but overall I was disappointed. It was a shame as the staging, cast, and musicians were all absolutely committed and turned in outstanding performances. Unfortunately, however, the material was lacking.

Three stars ✭✭✭


Union Theatre
204 Union Street

Box Office:020 7261 9876

Wednesday 24 April  – Saturday 25 May

Tuesday to Sunday at 7.30pm
No shows Mondays

Tickets: £19.00 - £20.00
First week all seats £17.50