Nearly 10 years since its Julie Atherton-starring debut, London musical LIFT is vibrantly revived at Southwark Playhouse
“We’re all hiding from something”
Craig Adams and Ian Watson’s musical LIFT was first seen at the Soho Theatre in 2013, in a production that featured Cynthia Erivo but more significantly, an epically good Julie Atherton. This beautifully-designed (Andrew Exeter) revival at Southwark Playhouse has been refreshed by the writers and in director Dean Johnson’s hands here, feels like a cracking showcase for its talented cast.
The show is almost as much a song cycle as a fully-fledged musical, using the concept of the 54 seconds that a group of people spend in a lift at Covent Garden tube station to riff on the nature of contemporary city living. Although, led as we are by the figure of Luke Friend’s busker who imagines life stories for them all, we soon see that even if we’re not making eye contact with other, there’s often more than connects us than not.
Not getting too preoccupied with notions of narrative throughline allows a stronger appreciation of what we do have here. Craig Adams’ set of songs pulse with a rock-tinged energy – none better than ‘Lost in Translations’, delivered here with career-defining excellence by Kayleigh McKnight – and MD Sam Young’s newly tweaked arrangements are full of harmonic thrills which are matched by the zest of Annie Southall’s choreography.
There’s great work throughout the company. Chrissie Bhima exudes an irrepressible energy throughout, Tamara Morgan nails her character work and Hiba Elchikhe delivers oodles of vocal precision and dreamy warmth. And from its tales of tricky coming outs, frustrated dreams, online deceptions and all the pains and pleasures of falling in and out of love, this vibrant production offers a neat snapshot of just being alive.