Southwark Playhouse, London – 18 June 2022
Produced by Gartland Productions, Lift has returned to London after premiering in 2013. Set in a Covent Garden lift (if you’ve attempted the steps, you know how crucial this particular lift is) it looks at eight of the characters on the same under a minute journey.
Played by Luke Friend, the busker (like many of us do while laying by the pool on holiday) imagines what his fellow lift-mates’ stories and connections may be and the plot goes from there. Opening the musical alone on stage with a guitar, he is good at leading the show and seems at ease throughout. Sometimes his words get lost but his super strong vocals are great and he especially shines in the more angsty moments.
The rest of the cast share the names Sarah, Kate and Gabriel and you never quite know whether their stories are really happening or whether they are in the busker’s head. Due to this the plot is somewhat confusing and hard to follow, and in fact it may have been better just to focus on one or two individual characters. Each character’s story is interesting and intriguing but due to the structure you never truly get to delve into them so are left feeling a little shortchanged.
However, it’s the first-rate performances that really bring this show to life. Hiba Elchikhe is a certified star in her role as the secretary; giving dreamy vocals and making the absolute most of all she’s given to work with. Alongside her, Marco Titus gives a nice performance and the pair bounce off of one another very well.
Kayleigh McKnight completely wows with her rendition of ‘Lost in Translations’ which is a vocal marathon and Cameron Collins shows versatility in his various personas. Tamara Morgan is endearing and witty in her performance as well as working with Collins and McKnight well. Jordan Broatch and Chrissie Bhima are excellent together, bringing their virtual avatar characters together so impressively and entertainingly.
As a whole, the cast are incredibly strong and it’s in the ensemble, deeply harmonic moments where the musical really comes to life. It’s also when the narratives intersect that things become interesting. The audience start to spot connections and are forced to work out what’s really true and linked. As well, the plot provides an interesting study on grief that has moments of revelation which are well approached.
Andrew Exeter’s steel rig set is good at emphasising certain parts of the story and is a solid way of transforming the space to the various locations. The bright lighting is engaging and adds to Lift’s fantastical, dreamlike setting. There’s not a huge amount of diversity between Craig Adams’ songs but each one does well to bring some story to each character, even if it is fairly surface level.
Overall, Lift is a well-paced show which lacks real depth and cohesion but is carried exceptionally well by the eight person cast. As a cult favourite, it’s worth catching it just for the powerhouse voices and strong visuals.
photo credit: Mark Senior