The Lift

August 16, 2014 | By More

✭✭✩✩✩  Not uplifting

Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49) Sun 10 – Sun 17 Aug 2014

Some clever staging and energetic performances are not enough to mask fundamental drawbacks in conception and script in Edinburgh University Theatre Company’s The Lift.

The cast of The Lift. Photo: Lauren McLay

The cast of The Lift. Photo: Lauren McLay

Nine disparate characters find themselves stuck in a broken lift in Fergus Deery’s play. This claustrophobic and not wholly original premise could be the springboard for something very interesting. But in the end, like the lift, it never really goes anywhere.

The obvious problems in staging a play set in such a small area are how the lift will be represented and how to move the actors around. This proves to be the play’s real strength, as director Hunter Weinsheink uses the space and cast imaginatively and with skill.

The cast show energy and drive in attempting to flesh out characters who rarely rise above stereotypes. Ellie Eve Sagar and Adam Butler are a convincing young couple, while Leyla Doany and Jacob Close portray an older pair with humour, if with a certain lack of sensitivity.

Matthias Vollhardt’s blustering professor and Lorna Rose Treen’s neurotic young woman are well judged comic performances, while Kelsey Griffin brings enough subtlety to the part of a wheelchair user to make her the most believable character, as well as the most likeable by far. Nikola Muckajev brings a monstrous energy to his posh ‘fresher boy’.

something out of a 1970s sitcom

The problem is that all of the characters are types rather than people. This is most shown by of Pablo, the Mexican whose huge moustache and ‘comedy foreigner’ routine make him look like something out of a 1970s sitcom. Rafiki Rhymes does his best to invest the role with some humanity, but it is a losing battle.

The commitment shown to the piece by the performers in trying to rise above the stereotyping simply brings the inadequacies of the writing into sharper focus. There are some very dubious remarks made by some of the characters, and while we are in no way expected to sympathise with them, there is also not enough of an examination of the motives behind them – instead, there is the suspicion that they are used to get cheap laughs.

It is not the case that the writing should avoid giving offence, but Deery needs to be a little more rigorous about his intentions. A blacker-than-black nihilism, with a misanthropic air, would have been more explicable, as would a more exaggerated absurdism. Instead, there is a certain cosiness about it all, the feeling of an extended sketch without much reason to exist at this length.

This lack of thought extends to the idea behind the play. What sort of building could all these characters be in? No answers arrive. There is enough evidence here of intelligence in the writing to highlight the overall lack of rigour – the structure is sound, there are some very good lines, and the dialogue has a natural rhythm and pace which the talented cast exploit to the full. However, the overall effect remains unsatisfactory.

Running time 1 hour
Bedlam Theatre, 11b Bristo Place, EH1 1EZ (Venue 49)
Sun Aug 10 – Sun Aug 17
Daily at 3.00 pm
Tickets from edfringe.com/whats-on/lift

ENDS

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