Craig Adams’ and Ian Watson’s musical gets an updated, and long awaited, revival in this beautiful production. LIFT was first performed in 2013 and centres around one minute in a lift at Covent Garden underground station. The musical is ambiguously set in the imagination of a busker (Luke Friend) who is still grieving the end of his relationship a year ago. He watches other people in the lift with him, overhearing snippets of conversations and giving them characters and narratives that all relate to his current grief. There is a business man (Marco Titus), who is struggling after the abrupt departure of his wife; his secretary (Hiba Elchikhe), who is in love with him and waiting for him to notice; a French teacher (Kayleigh McKnight) confused about her love for a female pupil; a ballet dancer (Cameron Collins) who is torn between who his mother wants him to be and who he really is, and the dancer’s friend (Tamara Morgan), also a trained dancer who is working in a BDSM club to make extra money and coming to terms with her unrequited love for her friend. There are also two America tourists (Chrissie Bhima and Jordan Broatch) who double up as other characters as necessary.
There are no weak links in this exceptional cast and all the characters, however ambiguous, are beautifully realised. However the stand out performance comes from Kayleigh McKnight as the deeply repressed lesbian French teacher, whose rendition of the hugely popular ‘Lost in Translation’ is a fantastic showcase of her acting through song abilities and beautifully heart-breaking and passionate. Also worthy of mention is recent graduate Tamara Morgan who gives and thoughtful and emotional performance of ‘It’s Been A Year’, reflecting on the still raw feelings she has for her best friend who has recently come out to her as gay. There were certainly a few tears in the audience at this moment. Luke Friend is also endearing and very watchable as the busker.
There are some moments where things get a little bizarre, such as Jordan Broatch and Chrissie Bhima becoming social media avatars in several scenes and singing a song that takes the audience down a strange and lyrically confusing rabbit-hole that doesn’t really add anything to the overall show. Some of the other more interesting narratives aren’t as well-developed as they could be, and one wonders if perhaps the time spent with the avatars could be put to better use with the other characters. Regardless of this, this is an excellent production with a cracking cast, beautiful music, and great direction by Dean Johnson that will leave you with an affirmed appreciation for British musical theatre.