Aug 6 2023 | By More

★★★★★    Passionate

Paradise in Augustines (Venue 152): Fri 4 – Sat 12 Aug 2023
Review by Torya Hughes

Bare Productions have once again sold out their entire Fringe run before August even started – a remarkable achievement, but one which is entirely justified by the quality of this production of RENT at Paradise in Augustines .

RENT is inspired by the Puccini opera “La Bohème”, and tells the story of a group of friends during the height of the AIDS crisis. One cold Christmas Eve in Manhattan, filmmaker Mark and musician Roger struggle to stay warm in their flat. Their ex flatmate Benny, now their landlord, has decided that he wants them to pay their overdue rent after all, and cuts off the power.

Meanwhile their friend Collins is mugged on the way to visit them, and is rescued by a drag queen named Angel. Neighbour Mimi, a dancer with a heroin addiction, turns up to ask Roger for a light and ends up flirting with him. At the same time, Roger’s ex girlfriend Maureen and her lawyer partner Joanne are preparing to protest against homeless people being evicted from a nearby lot.

The Cast of Bare Productions’ RENT. Pic: Bare Productions

The musical is almost entirely sung through, and gradually weaves together the lives of the characters as they fall in love, attend an HIV support group, and lose loved ones. Distant concerned parents leave unanswered voicemails, and police patrol the streets to move on the homeless. As the year passes, Mark documents everything on his camcorder.

Roger, Mimi, Collins and Angel are all HIV positive, and we see them regularly taking antivirals in a desperate attempt to stem the progression of the disease. Without giving away any spoilers for those who don’t know the musical, not all of them survive the year. Although treatment and prognosis for HIV has changed radically in the 30yrs since the musical was written, the themes of friendship, belonging, affordable housing and poverty remain very relevant.

Director Dominic Lewis places his version of RENT on an almost bare stage, which becomes a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces with the addition of a few simple props. An old TV screen occasionally flashes with some of Mark’s footage, and simple lighting highlights the action. The attention is mainly on the performances, and they are compelling enough to need no embellishment.

undertones of vulnerability

Nick Tomlinson’s Roger is a tortured soul with a powerful voice, struggling with his mortality and his conflicted feelings for Mimi. Freya Rivero gives Mimi a coquettish confidence with undertones of vulnerability. Rory McKeon’s Angel is a high kicking whirlwind onstage, and his relationship with Andrew Gardiner’s Collins is touching, especially in a harrowing scene late in the show.

Nicola Alexander is a delight to watch as the outgoing Maureen, with “Over the Moon” being a particular highlight. Felicity Halfpenny is a motivated Joanne, and her “Tango Maureen” with Ethan Baird’s Mark is great fun. Greg McCaffrey-Thomson is just mean enough as Benny to allow the character to be redeemable.

A scene from Bare Productions’ RENT. Pic: Bare Productions

The ensemble work together in harmony both physically and vocally, with everyone universally strong. “La Vie Bohème” is a slickly choreographed number, while Rosie Sugrue’s vocals in “Seasons of Love” earn her cheers from the audience, a truly special performance.

The emotional intensity and power kicks in from the very start of the title number, aided by Finlay Turnbull’s five piece rock band. However Lewis knows where to bring the pace and volume down and allow the audience space to breathe.

impassioned and committed

The only criticism would be that some microphones are not always turned on in time for the cues, but this does not detract majorly from the show. This is an impassioned and committed performance, and one that you might be lucky enough to see if you can get one of the limited tickets released each night on the door.

Running time: two hours and 15minutes (including one interval)
Paradise in Augustines, The Sanctuary, 41 George IV Bridge EH1 1EL (Venue
Friday 4 – Saturday 12 August 2023
Evenings: 7.40pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Bare Productions links

Twitter: BareProductions
Facebook: @BareEdinburgh
Instagram: @bareproductions


A scene from Bare Productions’ RENT. Pic: Bare Productions



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.