As the audience was met with the Chapel's exposed, mesmerising and grand stained glass window in all its glory, a sight many theatregoers only imagine as they pass by the venue's exterior, a sense of foreboding authenticity was veiled over eager ticketholders. The window itself set the scene and called for the immediate establishment of audience engagement, almost embodying a character in itself as, with the assistance of Maddy Seach and Jason Bovaird's meticulously calculated lighting design, the window's overarching presence highlighted the dysfunction that sometimes comes hand-in-hand with adolescents', or really anyone, searching to find their place in their personal faith journey; a place that often shifts between confused and secure, fear and calm. This was further supported using a LED cross hanging over the stage, angled to that the audience also felt the intensity and pressure of living a life under the eyes of others. Lighting throughout the two acts further encapsulated this mood, staying true to the intentions of the piece and cultivating the necessary depth and dynamic at the narrative's core.
Dean Driberg's staging of the piece invited audiences to consider the voice and agency of young people, while acknowledging the subjectivity and individuality in perceptions and actions when it comes to life experiences that can certainly polarise us as human beings. This was particularly evident in his stylised used of the theatre space and the actor's manipulation and transformation of objects on stage, showcasing that agency all the more. His use of elements of non-naturalism actually worked to highlight the intense realism of the piece, highlighting through fragmented staging a fragmented existence. His recognition of the school's cohort as a whole, their lives being lived as their peers silently struggle through intense situations injected a sense of normalcy and reality to the piece, working to at the same time call the audience to better recognise that despite life going on as normal, everyone has a story, a struggle and a life that may be playing out behind closed doors. While at times, some of the decisions Driberg made in his interpretation appeared to be intended as provocative but perhaps executed as confusing, his vision and intention to express the need for further progression were certainly realised. The direction was supported by the more abstract, contemporary choreography by Kirra Sibel. Through movement, Sibel was able to tell the story of being completely consumed, immersed and silenced, giving a voice to the voiceless through outer expression.
Musical Direction by Caleb Garfinkle was very powerful and inspired. Unfortunately, due to an interesting and inconsistent sound mix, through no fault of Garfinkle, this inconsistency took away from the quality of was what being presented and was often distracting and disengaging. The standout individual performance of the piece was delivered by Hannah Grondin. Grondin's 'Nadia' was the right balance of sass and hurt, brokenness and courage. Her vocals were an absolute indulgence to listen to and painted a real sense of inner pain, shame, and conflict, while her comedic timing was impeccable.
Stephanie Marion Wood as 'Kyra' gave a stellar performance throughout. Her versatility and commitment to the piece did not go unnoticed. Similarly, HaNy Lee's 'Diane' was a crowd favourite, showcasing a careful consideration for both light-heartedness and emotional connection. As 'Ivy', Hannah McInerney's shining moment was in providing an emotion-fuelled rendition of 'All Grown Up'. The power of this moment, one that is exceptionally volatile and horrifically pained is not lost on the audience and is somewhat inescapable, evoking an uncomfortableness that is so necessary for the audience to begin to question and reflect on the very adult world these young people are attempting to navigate.
Adam Di Martino and Finn Alexander, as 'Peter' and 'Jason' respectively, presented often solid portrayals of young men trying to navigate an intense array of emotions, boundaries, expectations, and consequences. At times, it felt as if the pair lacked the emotional connection an audience of bare craves, however, this could potentially be forgiven if considered through the lens of the characters' confusion and conditioned responses, fuelling a concealment of emotion.
The emotion written into bare is so key and at times this felt a little strained, as it was difficult to find the cast's attempts at evoking this emotion to be convincing, particularly at the climax of the piece. This somewhat distanced the audience, building a sense of alienation as opposed to relatability. Again, this could have been a calculated decision that showcased an inability to feel emotion due to having been silenced for so long, though did find pivotal moments come across as largely tame and wanting for more.
With this said, StageArt should be commended for bringing this piece to the Melbourne theatre scene - a piece that is so often disregarded or overlooked despite its poignancy and power. It is so very important to become immersed in theatre like this in order to reflect on enduring themes and recognise the relevance and prevalence of some pretty heavy social issues that continue to plague our society. StageArt certainly made their mark in this respect.