Bare Productions exists for its local and accessible approach to theatre, with its “Bare Academy” doing the same for dance, vocal and acting skills. It therefore only makes sense that No Spray No Lay is a musical. Written by new writers Kat Dobell and Lara Dunning, who were also creative directors on the project, the show takes place in the ladies bathroom of a night club in 2005. It was intended as an ode to the female experience, with the female toilets creating a micro-society, one notorious for the bonds it creates. And with alcohol known for the drama it can cause (not to mention excusing some first night flubs, such as two characters getting their own names wrong), this club toilet quickly becomes both the eye of the storm and sometimes the storm itself, a centre for all the drama of a young person’s life.
The young people here are three very different pairs of girls, Crystaal (Abigail Nelson) & Sahara (Hannah Lorimer), Laura (Hannah Childs) & Jane (Ruth Harris) and the two Sweaty Girls (Stacey Scott & Chiara Menozzi), each with their own problem around which friendship skirts. One has bad taste in guys, one treats her friend like her minion and the sweaty ones are… living life on the edge of ban from another club, I guess? The result is more scene than plot based, with each sequence built around a song (often with the ensemble Sarah Bradley, Daphne Nelissen and Tiia Kontro) and linked by the toilet attendant, Vicki (Kikelomo Hassan) and the club’s bouncer Deb (Abi Price), who gets the lion’s share (though not the most notable) of the show’s fun use of audience interaction.
The 2005 setting is mostly apparent from its pop culture, with Myspace, flip phones, digital cameras and David Beckham product placement each dropping in for a bow. The rest is, if not timeless, than immediately recognisable to anyone who has been young in the last four or so decades, with the characters and location being so familiar you can almost smell the alcohol. There is good use made of the space with a few tables (one of which is made into a series of sinks thanks to some metallic bowls) and three toilet cubicles coveted in graffiti (some of it jokes and some of it character relevant). These are further augmented by the flyers plastered on the pillar centre stage which the venue is known for, and the screen upstage, on which is projected extra gags as well as some shots of a few off-stage events.
The characters are all brought to life clearly and passionately by the cast, and all got their share of laughs from the audience. But though the vocal performances are uniformly strong, the energy of the performances doesn’t really translate to the choreography of the music, with even the numbers where the extra movement is character relevant not going as far as the other characters’ reactions seem to suggest.
The creators have expressed their wish to take this to the Fringe and this very much suits the Fringe format with the running time, easily communicated concept, big gags and a cast of characters (and performers) one recognises and are happy to follow for one more night.
Reviewer: Oliver Giggins
Reviewed: 17th November 2023
North West End UK Rating: