The latest world premiere in Soho Theatre’s main space is that rare thing in London musical theatre: neither an adaptation nor a re-staging but a brand new piece of writing.
It also has a refreshingly novel concept, tracing the lives of a random group of lovelorn Londoners – a busker, a businessman and his PA, a teacher, a stripper and a gay sex-addict – crammed together in the same Covent Garden Underground lift each morning.
Steven Paling’s snappy direction successfully evokes the bustling awkwardness of the daily commute on Georgia Lowe’s elegantly simple on-rails set. And scenes in which two of the characters flirt as exaggerated avatars in an online chatroom are inventively handled.
The score is forgettable in places, but a few numbers suggest a bright future for composer Craig Adams – the powerfully raw post-break-up lament ‘It’s Been a Year’ shivers off the stage, particularly when sung in reprise by Cynthia Erivo’s emotionally bruised stripper.
It’s the genuine creative ambition on display that makes it all the more frustrating that, ultimately, this ‘Lift’ doesn’t really go anywhere. Its splintered narrative is fitfully entertaining but fails to form something emotionally satisfying.
In spite of the talented cast’s best efforts, the characters struggle to escape cliché, and the script is bogged down by a seriousness that blunts the occasional spiky line and feels completely overblown for what’s supposed to be a bleary-eyed journey to work. Tom Wicker