I am lucky enough to have a phone interview with director Sue Rider, about her latest show – Understudy Productions’ (Boys of Sondheim, A Very Naughty Christmas, [title of show]) musical Bare.
“Essentially, it’s the story of two boys, young men, at school who fall in love”, Sue begins.Th
“One wants to declare that love, the other is conflicted. They are at a Catholic boarding school and he is aware of the environment around him and the impact coming out might have. Other students are also grappling with teenage issues- identity, body image, etc. The main issue is the love story though, and it is paralleled by the class putting on Romeo and Juliet– there’s a theme of forbidden love… Bare was written in the early 2000’s but we are setting it now. Really, it’s very relevant in the wake of the marriage equality debate.”
The piece is relevant to society as a whole and relevant to individuals in the company, with one of the cast members telling of family members who no longer speak to them since they came out.
“The title of the piece is ‘Bare’ and that captures our approach- we wanted it to be uncluttered. We have set key words: honesty, rawness, truth, intimacy, love, fear. Every character, to a greater or lesser degree, is working through these emotions”.
Sue is quick to reassure, “It also has humour and playfulness.”
Sue also spoke about carrying the ‘uncluttered’ aesthetic through the design of the show.
“We wanted a flexible design. There are a number of locations within the show- a school, church, dorm, and bush rave. You can do that literally or have a design you can change with lighting and the way people move within the space. It’s symbolic, metaphorical, with different levels implying the constant presence Catholic church, of light and dark.”
When querying why the story of Bare needed to be told in musical form, Sue explains, “It heightens it, gives it a level of richness.”
“Music can enrich and allow you to express emotions on a different level. The audience is affected by it holistically. It’s a direct journey to the emotions and you don’t have to over-intellectualise. It appeals to the instincts.”
When Alex Woodward – the show’s producer – approached to Sue to direct, she was excited to be working with a young, independent theatre company such as Understudy Productions. She is a great supporter of independent theatre and remarked, “I love honesty and intimacy in theatre and, for me, theatre has to matter.”
She went on to say that the challenges of directing Bare will be, “To be able to play it truthful without being sentimental. Going back to the title, some people are quite emotionally exposed and bare. Also, developing the relationships and the ensemble. There’s a life on stage. It’s a throbbing, living organism and it’s easy to focus on just the leads- but the theatre that excited me most as an audience member is theatre with a rich ensemble.”
So, come and experience what promises to be some very topical, poignant Australian musical theatre at the Visy Theatre and get Bare from May 24 to June 2.
For more information, visit the Brisbane Powerhouse website.