Mar 30

Bare The Musical is an emotional roller coaster that will have you gasping for breath as you journey with a bunch of teenagers making the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

We join a group of students in their final year at a Catholic boarding school, making preparations for the end-of-year play, Romeo and Juliet.

The storyline cleverly integrates the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet into the lives of the students. We can see parallels between the two as the story moves along.

It’s a compelling tale, one that we have heard and seen so many times. It’s a typical story about teenage angst. The tension between the boys and the girls, the competition between friends, the need to fit in and conform, the adolescent awkwardness and the overarching influence of religion in their lives.

The tension is palpable as the students ready for their performance. Underlying that tension is the battle with sexuality and the church. Our hero, Peter isn’t really struggling with his sexuality, he knows he is gay. His struggle is with how to tell his mother, how to reconcile his feelings with a church that tells him he is a sinner and most importantly how to get his boyfriend, Jason out of the closet.

It’s a potentially horrid time in the life of a young gay man. I know, I’ve been there. In a Catholic school, surrounded by boys who mock, tease and torment anyone who shows a hint of being gay. This musical gets that uncertainty, and the deep-seated fear of being different, right.

The love between Peter and Jason is innocent and sweet. It’s the sort of forbidden love that you know is just waiting to blossom. The actors portray a deep emotional connection with each other as they take us along on their love story of trust, betrayal and redemption.

The storyline drew me in, the world around me disappeared, even the uncomfortable seat of Chapel Off Chapel didn’t distract me as I laughed and cried with the performers.

And cry I did. I cried as I listened to Peter reach out to his mother, told him how alone he felt, how much he needed her and she denied him that.

I cried as Jason tried to sort out his life in the confessional. As he desperately tried to reconcile his faith with his sexuality and came up bare.

I cried as the final song played, the raw tragedy of a young life lost and the grieving of his friends.

I sat stunned as the final moments rolled in and I understood the complicit nature of the church in the death. How the last number No Voice echoed the injustice of a rigid Catholic system that is hellbent on keeping its magisterium intact.

As the lights blinked out, I gasped and covered my mouth in shock at the symbolism in front of me.

All through the play, I saw the potential of suicide. These young people were in desperate times. Whether it’s the unexpected pregnancy, the slut-shaming, the body-shaming or the rejection of love, the possibility of suicide was there.

The acting was outstanding. It seemed that I was watching their real lives play out in front of me. They really did take me along for the journey. I felt the joy, the angst, the fear and the sorrow.

The singing was superb, from the opening number Epiphany in the chapel, to the lament of Best Kept Secret and the hilarious God Don’t Make No Trash, it told the story of the rich and deep lives of this group of youngsters.

Overall the play has an anti-catholic feel to it. A couple of numbers balance that a little. It’s pretty clear that the priest carries the churches line and the nun is far more accepting. Mostly it seems like an accurate reflection of where the church currently sits in relation to sexuality.  I can see how you might squirm a bit if you are Catholic and believe in god.  As a social statement, there is an undertone of ridicule and an attempt to hold the church to account.  The cry of Are You There? as the students seek answers to their prayers says it all about the futile nature of needing divine intervention in your life.

Make no mistake though, the message is clear. That teenage angst puts these kids on the edge of oblivion. The pressure to conform is real. Sure, it’s not unusual for any of us to have our hearts broken, and our first loves disappoint. When you’re already vulnerable, however, it’s vital and incumbent on the adults to have empathy, and more importantly, take on the role of mentor and friend to help guide the next generation into happy, healthy lives.

Chapel off Chapel is an ideal venue for this musical.  You’re sitting in an old church decked out with its stained glass window.  The lighting is stunning and the soundtrack performed by a live ensemble makes the show.

Bare, The Musical is on at Chapel off Chapel until April 15th, 2018.

Mar 02

I’m sitting high up above the earth, flying towards Sydney. Michael is beside me, and a woman on the other side by the window. She has proper travel etiquette, not engaging with me at all for the duration. I really struggle with small talk.

I’m relaxed, have my tablet open, connected to the WiFi watching a program about comedy. I had never given any thought to women in comedy, and I’m somewhat taken aback by the notion that women have fought hard to overcome misogyny and discrimination in the comedy field. This is a revelation to me. Upon reflection, of course, I can see my error. Women have been the subject of jokes, making fun of them, suggesting that they are stupid, all for a couple of laughs. It’s been a long hard road for acceptance.

Planes are strange things, they hurl through the air at high speed and then somehow land, and generally speaking nobody dies.

The worst part of flying, I think, is just before landing. As the ‘Fasten Seatbelts’ sign comes on the aircraft starts its descent. You already know that you have no right to be up here where only clouds and birds belong, you also know that coming in contact with the ground in an uncontrolled fashion will be detrimental to your health. Even though you may understand that aeroplanes land without incident on a regular basis, there is nothing that prepares you for the insane reaction that your body has as you start going down.

It’s a combination of the drop in altitude and deceleration that is really scary. As the plane slows down you instinctively know that this is dangerous, it’s only speed that keeps you up here. Throw in a bit of turbulence, and even the most rational and sane amongst us will shit their pants.

The final insult is when the wheels do finally hit the ground. The engines scream in protest as they are thrown into reverse. You tense up, those fucking wheels are round, they roll, the struts they sit on the end of have suspension, and yet it feels like you are about to hit a brick wall.

At last a lovely voice says ‘Please remain seated until the aircraft comes to a complete stop’ and you give thanks to the science that means you are stopping in a controlled manner and not by having your feet shoved through your mouth. Now to get ready for the flight home.

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