(seen at the afternoon performance on 31st May 2022)
A busker outside Covent Garden underground station fantasises about the people he rides with in the station lift. The 54 seconds he spends thinking are the basis of this musical by Craig Adams and Ian Watson.
Originally part of a Mountview (theatre) School degree idea and having been seen at Soho Theatre in 2013, this is a revised revival with the book edited to include extra scenes and clarify the role of our narrator.
It has a certain naïve charm. With a little Sondheim influence in its very loose construction, focussing on characters rather than a single story arc, the monkey could really feel the teen spirit and era behind every idea.
The problem is that sadly it isn’t mostly very compelling. There is little character development, though a couple of the stories are interesting if a little cliched.
Using avatars in a virtual world (the “metaverse” being a real update from 2013) was a little odd. Sure, it may be how a few communicate, but to buy data and use it to build a relationship seemed a real fantasy step too far even in the musician’s mind.
Speaking of, Luke Friend makes the most of his role. A little pre-show guitar before he lets rip, we understand his dilemma even if a few words are lost to an over-amplified sound system.
Of those inside his head, once more Jordan Broatch demonstrates in his second consecutive show here that he is someone to watch. Avatar with a sense of amused detachment, he remains an actor of real potential.
Kayleigh McKnight as a lesbian teacher on the brink of relationship disaster is also compelling. A strong voice and able to handle difficult material, her interaction with Tamara Morgan is a highlight of the piece, both young women clearly learning from the experience and proving to be the most compelling storyline in the show. McKnight also gets the best song, an angry condemnation of her lover’s wild escape.
As a company worker with the boss from hell Hiba Elchikhe will probably wish to sort out Marco Titus at an industrial tribunal one day. The pairing understood each other and made nothing they did work to perfection. Elchikhe also provides a neat ending.
Cameron Collins makes a credible whispy appearance contrasting with those around him, while Chrissie Bhima in her professional debut where she performed “Once On This Island” in 2019 proves that she is at home on stage in this venue.
Director Dean Johnson fights the problem of having action on three sides of an intimate stage hemmed in by Andrew Exeter’s design enclosing two sides of it. Annie Southall too finds that her choreography cannot breathe too well. A simpler and smaller stage – the size of a lift, say – may have assisted.
As an early work it will prove an aide-memoire to the authors as well as a reference point to their youth. For audiences it is a little piece of pop-history enshrined in 90 minutes. Nicely performed, but limited, an elevator to the future for all involved.