"I was scared. Indeed, I was scared stiff..."
Already with a Fringe First 2010 under their belts, BareBack Theatre brings a grim, but realistic drama to the stage about low-lives, illegal fighting and greed. The strong cast is flawless, several performers portraying a number of different characters, always with integrity. The gritty story unfolds with the utmost realism, never glossing over any subject matter that might make the audience uneasy. But this is not done just to shock, but to best serve the narrative.
The script is tightly constructed, and every character beautifully crafted. Even if they are on stage for less than five minutes, each character has a backstory and a sense of direction. And the play never lets down the tension built from the first moment, keeping the audience hooked at all times.
With a sparse stage and minimal props, the actors vividly recreate the world they inhabit, and make it come to life. Seedy clubs, sweaty gyms and crooked police stations are all excellently realised, not with visuals but with the actors’ performances.
Bare is a great production that will stay ingrained in your minds long after you leave the show, finding new layers to the storyline as you think back on in days to come.
Having spent most of the festival enjoying Press, 2 for 1 and half-price tickets it was quite a rarity for this reviewer to pay full-price for a show. "Bare", however, more than re-paid this investment.
The play started in the queue with promoter Arden tearing the tickets before you entered the arena (theatre). With his fixer Chesney providing some unexpected stand-up while the punters (audience) took their seats including some dodgy-looking characters. Suddenly it was show-time and we were plunged into the sweaty, underworld of bare-knuckle boxing.
Billed as "strictly adults" only "Bare" pulled no punches (sorry), literally showing the blood,sweat and tears of those involved. We followed the fortunes of Skinner whose "good samaritan" moment gave him the opportunity to earn big money in this illegal violent sport.
Paul-Michael Giblin convincingly portrayed this genial loser who originally wanted the cash for his family but found the adulation and physical buzz of the fights too hard to avoid.
"Bare" was the perfect title for this visceral play, literally stripping the body and emotions down to their basic elements. Anyone wanting a rare 2010 festival experience of witnessing a 90 minutes of high quality acting in a play that never sags and provides a stunning unexpected climax should rush to Space 3 near the Radisson.
Special praise must go to Renny Krupinski, actor, writer, director and choreographer.
- Suite 101
Bare is Renny Krupinski’s uncompromising, gritty drama set in the north of England, following the fighting career of Rick "Skinner" as he delves deeper and deeper into the dark world of bare-knuckle fighting, working for the comically evil fight promoter-cum-gangster, Arden.
The first thing the audience notices is the energy with which the play is delivered all the way through, which creates a visceral, realist atmosphere that continually pulls the audience into the dark world the characters inhabit. Not a second is wasted, no movement on stage seems arbitrary and the whole piece is delivered with the professionalism and skill you’d expect from a play that has been described as one of the best at the festival. Surprisingly, despite its praises, it does not disappoint. There is not a moment that can seriously be described as dull.
Rick Skinner, a Psychotic Portrayal
Krupinski writes, directs, choreographs and appears alongside the main character as a sort of twisted, amoral, psychotic Thatcherite mentor to Rick Skinner, a working-class fighter who is constantly torn between his need of the sport in terms of personal and financial gratification and his responsibilities as a father and husband.
Paul Michael Giblin breathes life into a character that has essentially been done many times before, with help from an incredibly sharp, often witty script that provides the right balance of humour, brutality, characterization and drama in order to make something truly special
The fight scenes themselves are nothing short of lessons in stage brutality. They remain immersive all the way through, particularly at the beginning, where the audience is introduced to the sport by Krupinski's character taking bets from a manic crowd.
Skinner's Personal Life Out of the Ring
Despite the temptation to imagine the fight scenes as the highlight, the play also explores the marriage between Skinner and his wife and the conflicts inherent in almost any married relationship. Blood sport or no blood sport, their relationship always seems genuine in the way both individuals suffer. This helps the audience empathise with Skinner’s character, which makes the inevitable betrayal by his would-be mentor and manager all the more distressing.
An excellent play from an excellent cast that stands out amongst the hundreds of other plays at the festival.
A rare thing indeed: a must-watch at the Fringe!
- Bareback theatre
'Bare' depicts a criminal world fuelled by bloodlust and money - by raw, unbridled aggression and hefty wads of ill-gotten, gambled cash. The play introduces us to family man Rick whose brute strength attracts the shrewd business eye of bare-knuckle fight orchestrator Arden. Rick's descent into violence is rapid and grim. This show is not an easy watch, practically every scene contains conflict, aggression, and antagonism; voices seem permanently to be raised. Then there are the fights themselves, impressively choreographed and performed, but bloody, visceral and disturbing. Though the performances are consistently powerful, and the script richly, charismatically and almost poetically written, the amount of physical violence doesn't give one time enough to think about what is actually being said.