Edinburgh Fringe 2018
There’s 60 seconds maybe less of time in a steel container with strangers and those strangers have lives outside that may collide or may be separate but bring them to the same place, every day for different reasons and they pass the same man – the busker. Those reasons are explored with the executive businessman with secrets, the lovesick busker, the lovesick stripper chasing a gay man with many lives, the lesbian teacher who does not know what to do when her lover leaves for Paris and a couple of Americans who can’t pronounce their English. It all weaves and meanders for an hour.
The vitality of any youth theatre production can be what takes it through with the enthusiasm of the participants infectious and you become willing to see them achieve. That needs real ensemble playing, a script that plays to strengths and a wave of enthusiasm and belief that makes the whole experience one in which we believe. In Lift, Zenith managed to achieve some of that.
The acting was more universally good than the singing. The problem was, this was a musical. There were some voices that had strengths and a couple that failed to consistently hit the mark. With enthusiastic gusto coming across in the acting some of the songs were therefore forgivable.
The major issue I had was with the script. There was a lack of structure to it where we started with a lift and then seemed to abandon it. The idea of the busker being a link was weak and didn’t really strengthen. The connections between the characters were therefore drawn in ways that appeared random and left me wondering what the connections other than the lift might be. It had characters who were more rounded than most and the depiction of two LGBT characters – the gay man was very unsympathetically drawn though well played, the lesbian teacher similarly seen negatively as a naïve woman desperately reaching out though again the portrayal was nicely done. In comparison heterosexual characters, including the seedy businessman just seemed more caught out by unrequited love than their own failings.
It left us with a feeling of loss for the storyline rather than confidence in where it might be heading. Thematically therefore I struggled a little.
Coupled with a few issues in lighting which, in a very intimate 20 seat single decker venue is an unforgiving medium can make for an awkward hour.
There were set piece that worked very well and some of the acting was very good but overall the enthusiasm of this young cast was infectious at times and then it just drifted. The direction within the small space left them faltering and with a little better stage craft – getting into light should be a standard that you manage without thought and the need for direction from someone at the back, left me a little less than impressed.
The ensemble is, however, impressive. Their abilities are mixed – as with most youth theatre that allows people opportunities – but the script let them down. It really needed that structure to allow their strengths to shine. Their strengths sparkled infrequently whilst the enthusiasm and belief in their product was admirable. There is a great idea in here that I loved and I really wanted it to do so well, not just because of the idea of bringing a bus from Bath to Edinburgh is sheer genius and should be applauded, but because at times the script did get it right; just not consistently enough for the cast who I will keep looking out for to watch their development over the next few years.