While the production itself has plenty to recommend it, the structure and style in which the story has been written feels unnecessarily complex.
The Southwark Playhouse has a talent of bringing lesser known musicals to the stage and championing them – which means that you are never quite sure what to expect which is thrilling and this is certainly something that I wasn’t quite expecting.
Featuring music and lyrics by Craig Adams and a book by Ian Watson, LIFT follows a busker who is dealing with a type of grief which sees him imagining the lives of the strangers who he shares a lift with on a daily basis. As the show extends, you delve into their lives – whether it is a stressed out business man, a repressed teacher who turns to an exotic dancer for comfort or guy a who is lost in trying to figure out who he really is. The message at the core of the show (and it is repeated a lot throughout) is to tell people how you feel and express yourself . While the concept initially feels as though it has a bit of a Love Actually or even the musical Fiver feel about it as it blends stories of different characters together – the reality is much different and sadly less coherent than I was expecting.
This is particularly highlighted in the moments in which a couple of social media avatars come into play, which suspends reality but don’t feel as though it has much purpose in driving the story forward or even making the show feel smooth. It is a real shame that the structure of the book feels lacking in coherency as had the stories been interwoven in a better way, this would have helped develop an even stronger emotional connection to the characters throughout.
Musically however there is plenty to enjoy and appreciate, with songs such as ‘That Rainy Day’ and ‘Top of the City’ particularly standing out. The songs add depth to scenes and effectively give us a better understanding of where the characters are in their lives – as ‘Lost in Translations’ proves.
But despite the muddled nature of this abstract musical, director Dean Johnson does ensure that the production is pacy and energetic throughout, keeping tight control over the focus on the characters that we get to know along the way. In this regard, it means that the talented cast get a chance to put their skills on full display. I was particularly impressed by Tamara Morgan’s warmth and natural performance that really endears her to the audience, while her rendition of ‘It’s Been a Year’ is a real standout moment. Kayleigh McKnight offers a dynamic rawness and emotional depth to her character that is heartbreaking in many respects to witness, while Hiba Elchikhe offers an immensely charming performance throughout.
Visually, it has to be said this production is very clever, with Andrew Exeter’s designs effectively framing the characters and adds a nice edgy vibe to the production, while Annie Southall’s choreography is smart and makes use of the space well in helping to set scenes.
In terms of the story and structure LIFT does still need some work doing to it – particularly in terms of the story to really make a strong impact on the audience. However, this is still a dynamic production in many aspects with a cast well worth catching.
By Emma Clarendon
LIFT continues to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 18th June.