Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 6 – 21, 2013
Songs, book and lyrics: Joanne Weinberg
Director: Lisa Freshwater
Choreographer: Christopher Horsey
Actors: Natalie Lotkin, Tyran Parke, Monique Salle, Meredity O’Reilly, Charlotte Kerr, Christopher Horsey
Without an orchestra or band to perform a prologue, the show starts off clunky and stilted. It is a shock to the ears when characters replace conversation with big rousing musical numbers, especially when irony and comedy are not yet introduced at that early stage. Thankfully, by the time of the third song, things begin to fall into place, and Lifeforce unfurls its magic, telling a story with themes that are deep and universal. Its story isn’t a particularly interesting or unusual one, but the emotions it communicates and the ideas it explores have a profundity that elevates the musical genre from mere entertainment.
This is a demanding show for the small cast. Without support from a chorus, stage hands and elaborate sets, these six performers are required to take us on their journey, relying only on their skill and talent. Leading lady Natalie Lotkin’s confident voice is beautiful, and provides an emotional truth that gives the show a feel of authenticity. Tyran Parke demonstrates outstanding abilities both as a vocalist and actor, with a performance that is simultaneously entertaining and moving. Monique Salle gives her roles a sense of light and liveliness. Her voice is the brightest in the group, and accompanied with a keen sense of comedy, she owns some of the show’s most memorable moments.
Lisa Freshwater’s direction is accomplished. She treats her story with reverence, and imbues her characters with dignity. Freshwater’s emphasis on truthful character development allows its audience to engage and to empathise with those characters. There are instances in the production, however, where comic elements could have been played up more as the tone tends to get overly serious. From a structural perspective, the work misses the opportunity for a stronger surprise ending that could have taken the show to a more emotional conclusion. This is unfortunate and slightly bewildering.
Themes of family and parenthood when taken seriously, never fail to connect. In the case of Lifeforce, we are served an earnest and thoughtful tale of motherhood in several forms. Along with clever song-writing and beautiful singing (King St Theatre’s cosy acoustics are the perfect showcase for a small musical), this is a show that aims for the heart and never misses its mark.