The Ups and Downs of Project Arts Centre’s “Elevator”

I went to see Elevator in the Project Arts Centre on 21 September. I wrote this review a few days later but never managed to put it up until now. Ewps…

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I once told two friends that I thought I’d like to be a psychologist. They each looked at each other and started to laugh. At the time I was a little insulted but in reality they were probably right. I’d be a rubbish psychologist. Instead of taking notes, I’d probably spend the entire session jotting down the different prices of various sparkly jumpers on the Topshop website and having inner-debates about newly released books for Kindle, which I want to buy but will probably never get around to reading.

This kind of egotistical distraction is exactly what happened last Friday during Elevator in the Project Arts Centre at Templebar. For the first ten minutes I stared at the actors onstage and thought to myself, ‘HMMM, these guys sure have problems. But I bet none of them knows what it feels like to be a phone-less audience member who can’t remember where they’ve seen actor Conor Madden before.’

And for ten straight minutes this continued. I stared at the stage as my conveyor belt-brain looped and looped again with the same caps-lock question each time:

WHERE HAVE YOU SEEN HIM BEFORE?

It turned out that I had seen him in the Irish television series Love/Hate, which although totally different is not necessarily a bad place to start in terms of describing ThisIsPopBaby’s recent musical blow-out, Elevator.

Elevator, like Love/Hate is about excess except instead of pushing life to the brink like Love/Hate’s John Boy and Hughie, the brink has been passed and now the free fall is in motion.

The story is straightforward enough: five life-long friends (plus the house-maid) come together for a party except their host, Johann, is gone. And in his absence, the hedonistic quintet of men and women resort to an evening of cocaine and copulation. They do this of course in total elegance, switching from evening gowns to frilly underwear to expensive furs. Throughout the night, the group’s gender orientation is constantly in flux, and it flies from left to right like a pendulum that is out of control.

Inevitably like all Poor Little Rich Kids, the group push the boundaries of drugs and fornication and ultimately find themselves empty, lacking and alone as their drug ravaged-membranes force them to discuss their deepest feelings. Until of course the drugs wear off that is, and then the techno beats resurface to jump-start the party all over before it goes into crash down mode once more.

Regarding Elevator’s cast, they were without a doubt, excellent: each could sing, dance and act; they were provocative and dare I say it, each remarkably handsome. But Elevator’s standout contribution was its music: throbbing beats permeated the show and amplified the characters’ mixed emotions while the show’s finger-tapping synth songs, mixed with layered vocal harmonies, recounted the story while bringing the musical-theatre genre into a more grown-up sphere that shirked the silly spontaneity associated with many popular musicals.

Elevator certainly had its flaws: at times the story stagnated, and I personally felt that the questions it raised regarding the characters’ excess and extravagance were never really answered; simply posed. Nevertheless it was enjoyable, it was fun, in fact it was what I imagine Cruel Intentions and The Rocky Horror Picture Show would be if the two procreated and produced a play. Now if only they’d put the soundtrack on a disc.