It has been many years since I've seen Jonathan Larson's revolutionary rock-musical, Rent. It has never been my favourite musical, though I do appreciate the strong writing, the powerful themes and (most of) the songs.
However this new version by Bare Productions made me see the material in a new light. I enjoyed it more than I ever have before. Mainly that is down to the contemporary direction, and the absolutely sensational cast. I actually had to check my notes at the interval to make sure I hadn't confused this group with another... But yes, these really are amateur performers.
Rent follows the life of a group of struggling New York friends during the 1990s. They each face their own challenges, from poverty to drugs, homelessness and strained relationships. But overshadowing everything is the AIDS crisis; and the young adults' search for happiness and belonging.
Central to the story is narrator Mark (Ethan Baird) who is filming his friends for a documentary. Ethan Baird is outstanding in this role; I honestly can't see how the character could be played any better. He's upbeat and charismatic, but then just like the rest of us, becomes shocked and dismayed by the fallout happening around him. Ethan's energy, his determination and talent are remarkable.
All of the cast are excellent. Nicola Alexander (Maureen), has a voice so powerful I was genuinely stunned. And Nick Tomlinson (Roger) and Freya Rivero (Mimi) have the cool, struggling, ex-drug addict personas down to a tee. Their tough battles with themselves, and each other were painfully sincere.
But it was Andrew Gardiner (Collins) and Rory McKeon (Angel) who made my heart soar and then broke it into a million pieces. Their relationship is simply beautiful. And the chemistry and intimacy between the two actors is something rare and special.
I knew what was coming... I remember Angel's fate. But Angel's death scene here was so powerful, so brutal, I actually had to look away at one point. The grief on Collins face was real. The pain and regret in Angel's eyes was palpable. The scene was graphic, but necessary. I sobbed my heart out. Thank you both. You were just gorgeous.
The overall production was sadly let down by a few minor, but noticeable technical issues: On a number of occasions we missed a characters opening line in a scene because their mic wasn't up. It didn't happen just once or twice at the start of the show as may be expected, it happened frequently, and all through both acts. It didn't take away from the undeniable quality of the performers, but for their sake, I hope it can be worked out for future shows.
Bare Productions is doing a wonderful job staging professional quality shows for Edinburgh-based amateur performers. This run of Rent is sold out*, and deservedly so - Bare's reputation obviously precedes them! What they have achieved here in a fringe production, with all the limitations that imposes, is commendable. With a production team and performing company of this calibre, I can't wait to see what they do next.
When and Where?
August 4-12th, 2023 at 19:40 (2.15hrs) | £16-19
Paradise in Augustines – The Sanctuary 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL https://www.paradise-green.co.uk/perform/venues/sanctuary
Tickets available: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/rent
*Rent is currently SOLD OUT! (Congratulations Bare Productions!) But there are a few tickets available on the door each night. Queue early. Demand is high!
Creative Director - Dominic Lewis
Musical Director - Finlay Turnbull
Production Manager - Scott D Whitefield
Costume & Set Designer - Andrew Layton
Mark – Ethan Baird
Roger – Nick Tomlinson
Mimi – Freya Rivero
Angel – Rory Mckeon
Collins – Andrew Gardiner
Maureen – Nicola Alexander
Joanne – Felicity Halfpenny
Benny – Greg Mcafferty
Ensemble – Chris Veteri, Will Jackson, Neil Robertson, Russell Coid, Sophie Kayembe, Rosie Sugrue, Laura Green, Rachael Anderson
About Bare Productions
Bare Productions is an Edinburgh based theatre company committed to providing opportunities for amateur performers, through professional standard shows.
Bare launched in September 2017 and made their debut production with sell-out musical ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ followed by five-star hit ‘The Addams Family’ and subsequent rave reviewed productions ‘We Belong’ and ‘Kinky Boots’.
Director – Dominic Lewis
Musical Director – Finlay Turnbull
🌟 A review of Rent by Bare Productions (Musical Theatre, lgbtq+) at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023🌟
🎟️ Disclosure: I am an Edinburgh Festival Fringe accredited media reviewer and as such I receive complimentary press tickets in exchange for my honest reviews. My reviews and star ratings are always my honest opinions.
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