The theatre manager apologises for the heat in the auditorium and points out a pigeon’s nest in the extractor fan, and, indeed, throughout the two long hours of the show, feathers and bits of guano fall gently to the stage like blossom to a soft chorus of quee-quee-quee and the gentle aroma of pigeon shit.
And, that, sadly, is one of the high points of Edinburgh Little Theatre’s production of Bare. The company are formed from an acting course, and it feels a little like being at the school show since nearly everyone in the audience appears to be related to a member of the cast. And the list of production faults are endless. The music is far too loud and drowns out the performers. There is some terrible miscasting. The boy playing the priest looks to be about fourteen, whilst the two male leads, playing the star-crossed school boy lovers, project about thirty. And, despite an abundance of more suitable girls in the company, the role of the protagonist’s sister with the rather haunting solo number, Plain Jane, Fat Ass, has been given to notably svelte actress.
More than anything, though, the show lacks direction. The set design is ineffective and cumbersome, the lighting is unsympathetic and full of “holes” and the score is far too long, going from powerful vintage Lloyd-Webber (think Jesus Christ Superstar era) at its high points to Disney’s Pocahontas at its (many) nadirs. And the story is badly dated and brimming with cliched teenage angst-themes the like of which Molly Ringwald and other 80s stars expressed so much better in the high school movies of nearly forty years ago.
And yet Bare could be so much more powerful, especially with its strong and imaginative scenes paralleling Romeo and Juliet. Director, trim your script and set the whole thing in modern-day Trump’s America or, even worse, Putin’s Russia, and give a real razor’s edge to this currently flabby libretto.
It is honestly not the intention of this review to be down on a production that a young cast have very obviously worked exceedingly hard on, and there is talent here – lots of it – but it needs shaping and direction and, in few cases, some training in basic voice projection.