Review of LIFT at Southwark Playhouse

On the daily commute, do you look at the other people around you and wonder about them?
What is their story, and what are their lives like? With no real information, except maybe scraps of an overheard conversation, do you then start making up stories about them? I used to be worried that I was the only one that did this but not any more thanks to Lift by Gartland Productions, which is now on at the Southwark Playhouse.

LIFT - Southwark Playhouse - Photo Credit - Mark Senior
LIFT – Southwark Playhouse – Photo Credit – Mark Senior

At Covent Garden Tube Station, there is a Busker (Luke Friend). He’s there every day but most people don’t even notice him as they spend 54 seconds travelling in the station lift. But he sees them, and in his own mind, he knows them. For, in his mind, they are all connected. There is the closeted French Teacher (Kayleigh McKnight) and her ‘friend’ the dominatrix (Tamara Morgan) and her friend, the scared ballet dancer (Cameron Collins) whose avatar (Chrissie Bhima) connects with another avatar (Jordan Broatch) controlled by the self-reliant businessman (Marco Titus) who has trouble with his feelings for his secretary (Hiba Elchikhe). Based on his limited ‘interactions’ the Busker has dreamt up lives for them all and finds that having them in his life helps him to make sense of his own life and his failed relationship with fellow musician Sarah.

I have to say, I was a little confused by Lift at the start, and it took me a while to get into the show properly. However, once I got there – which was when I made the connection between the names Sarah and Gabriel – everything fell into place, and I was rolling along nicely with the story. Unfortunately, by then roughly a third of the ninety-minute runtime had passed, which was a shame. The blame, if that is the right word, I think is that Ian Watson’s book which is not a simple point A to B narrative is not initially that easy to grasp, but once you do the show really works pretty well. The songs by Craig Adams are good with each of the actors having a chance to shine under Musical Director Sam Young. The problem is that the limited run time means the songs and actors don’t really get a chance to shine as they should.

Having said that, I enjoyed the overall production. Andrew Exeter’s set is impressive, if a shade flimsy, and works well to create various fluorescent places for the actors to play in. Director Dean Johnson really uses the space well and there are some excellent touches in the direction which really assist the actors, all of whom have great voices. My favourite scenes were with the avatars. Not giving anything away but Jordan Broatch and Chrissie Bhima are simply brilliant in these roles. Somehow, they give the avatars the personality of their operators whilst also having personalities of their own and not forgetting that they are computer-generated, not the easiest of tasks. Luke Friend really shines as The Busker. He’s like a ringmaster setting off the stories and then stepping back and watching how they play out, and I have to say, Luke looks like he is really enjoying it.

I’ve listened to the original album today, and can really appreciate the quality of the writing, both musically and lyrically, which just brings me back to my main point that the show is too short and the book a little too non-standard. Ultimately though, by the end, I enjoyed the show and as the last scenes played out, I felt quite emotionally connected with the Busker and his wonderful imagination.

4 Stars

Review b y Terry Eastham

LIFT is set in a London underground lift, in one man’s imagination, on its way to the surface during one minute. In the 54 seconds of the lift’s passage, we are taken on a much longer journey that reveals the people behind the masks they wear, the secrets they dare not speak, and the unrealised connections between them.

The world premiere of LIFT ran a limited season at Soho Theatre in 2013. Starring Cynthia Erivo, Julie Atherton and George Maguire. Gartland Productions is passionate to reflect the diverse and contemporary landscape of 2022 London.

Creative Team
Director Dean Johnson (He/Him)
Musical Direction and New Arrangements
Sam Young (He/They)
Choreographer Annie Southall (She/Her)
Production Designer Andrew Exeter (He/Him)
Assistant Director Eden Howes (She/Her)
Production Management Andreas Ayling (He/Him) & Glyn Dodd (He/Him)
Production Assistant Ella Macfarlane (She/Her)
Associate Designer Natalia Alvarez (She/Her)
Assistant Designer Xinyi Du (She/Her)
Casting Pearson Casting
Producer Liam Gartland (He/Him) for Gartland Productions & Chris Maguire

Chrissie Bhima
Cameron Collins
Jordan Broatch
Hiba Elchikhe
Luke Friend
Kayleigh McKnight
Tamara Morgan
Marco Titus

LIFT is presented through special arrangement with Broadway Licensing, 7 Penn Plaza, Suite 904, New York, NY 10001

13 MAY – 18 JUN 2022