Have you ever been up close and personal with a group of strangers in a lift, guessing at the busker’s name or what the red-haired girl reading the Metro does for a living?
Part of Soho Theatre’s commitment to new musical theatre, Craig Adams’ LIFT is about the strangeness of human nature and the fact that our society consists of being in close contact with strangers, never communicating, while in the chatroom age, the ones we do communicate with couldn’t be more distant.
Disembodied announcements, booming club music, footsteps and sirens drown out feelings and words until we stop talking altogether, choosing to remain silent rather than compete with the city.
Adams’ witty and poignant score brings coherence amongst fragmented bursts of dialogue, each song an eruption of unsaid truth in which the characters, slinking aimlessly around Georgia Lowe’s stylish set, get to come up for air from the facade of everyday life.
The musical questions our culture of responsibility – schedules and timetables – at the expense of impulsion. It expresses a craving for human connection, for relationships in which we are not valued because of our good memory and punctuality.
Julie Atherton’s raw emotion is chilling in the outburst of unrequited love “Lost in Translations”. People and feelings are becoming lost in translation as human nature grows progressively unnatural. We have found ourselves asking “is it all about the shoes I wear?” as our lifestyle translates into increasingly callous versions of itself.
It is significant that the musical’s title is a word which has different definitions in British and American English. When the Brady Bunch-style American tourists ask for directions from Covent Garden to “Liesester Square” they get the biggest laugh of the show. Why do we insist on, and enjoy, the loss of translation that just increases the amount of barriers in an already-compartmentalised world?
The tube journey from Covent Garden to Leicester Square is London’s shortest, and the musical has a lot to say for our scrutiny of time in fast-paced modern life in which everything is instant – coffee and people. The musical itself is only 75 minutes long, which accommodates its limited narrative.
Transport for London have stressed to tourists in previous campaigns that the two stations are much closer in real life than they appear on the tube map. Similarly, LIFT suggests through simultaneous speech, shared names and repeated refrains that strangers may be closer to each other than they first perceive.
On my commute home I found myself noticing double-takes on the escalators and glances lasting a beat too long on the Bakerloo. LIFT, funny and thought-provoking, urges us to emergency exit from a broken-down society before we miss our connection.