The first act is a 30(ish) minute musical theatre performance stitching together show tunes from Wicked, Avenue Q and I love you because through a young woman’s coming out story. The performance is fast-paced and entertaining with a gorgeous awareness of theatrical convention. Spotlighting is used to break the fourth wall for the narrator’s direct address, back up chorus happily emerge to assist each song, and are often beckoned begrudgingly or shooed away after a number. They play with time regularly freezing it to add detail, or fastforward weeks at a time. It’s a well-constructed piece and brings out many laughs and the occasional “aw” from a rambunctious crowd (who I gather are largely classmates and friends of the performers). Some of the vocals are a little rough around the edges, and musical phrasing is awkward in places but it’s a charming and entertaining story performed with great charisma by the young cast.
Our second course is a solo piece exploring mental health through dance, movement and song. Other than some voice offers which feature Mike King and news reporters discussing mental health, and it’s surrounding stigma, all of the text is in Samoan. Though I cannot understand the language, I am enthralled by the performer’s physical and emotional story-telling (I want desperately to credit them they have no programmes or contact info, just know that if you’re reading this you’re awesome!). They have a stunning singing voice and use movement and lighting to show the shrinking and darkening of space as we journey through a fluctuating mental health story together. The only thing which pulls me out of the performance at times is a huge amount of unused space. The performer does struggle to fill the large stage in Tapere Nui in some sections and the lighting could have been better used to make the size of the space less apparent and the experience more intimate. The performance is beautifully capped by an audiovisual of (I assume) the performer as a child singing at home and then saying goodbye. It’s a short, sharp piece, with a genuine and meaningful message. I hope it’s something that will continue to be developed into a show of its own.
Finally we finish with probably the stand-out performance of the night in terms of quality. A dance troupe of eight amaze us through a set of slick and varied routines. Touches of ballroom, jazz, ballet and contemporary dance (I think, I’m not a dancer) are weaved into a cohesive and well-practiced performance. Every dance is in full control of their body, no matter how extreme the demands of the choreography are. The standout moments are when the ensemble comes together as one and dance as a single form throughout the set. These sections are well-executed and stunning to watch. This is not the first dance show I’ve seen in fringe 2020 and I can say with confidence that these young guns are holding their own against the pros, and appear to be doing so with ease. I cannot wait to see what comes out of this crew in the years to come.
To me Fringe is about everyone getting a turn on stage. It’s about being bold and showcasing your talent regardless of experience, reputation or expectation. To this end Lift Off is a fantastic Fringe show. It’s a real showcase of talented performers doing what they love and excelling at it too. I’m sure this won’t be the last we see from this crew of talented young artists, and that’s no bad thing.
Lift Off is on at 7:30 in Tapere Nui, Te Auaha until March 7th. Tickets are available at the fringe website.