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Lifeboats | Kings Head Theatre

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Lifeboats was a beautiful and heartfelt array of LGBTQ+ stories that shared some of the internal battles and wins that queer people can go through. Playing at The Kings Head Theatre until June 19th. Lifeboats is written by Gus Gowland and directed by Izzy Ponsford, with Musical Direction by Ben Mark Turner. The show features a cast of 4 actors playing a variety of characters, some of which are portrayals of historical figures such as Oscar Wilde and Anne Lister, in an hour long song cycle.


The whole show was put together with only two and a half days of rehearsal before the first performance. The show was described as a 'work-in-progress' to me ahead of the performance and with that, I went in with certain expectations. Within moments the show went above and beyond all of these expectations and the level of detail within the performance blew me away.

The show opened with a beautifully harmonised song between the four cast members and their harmonies in the group moments were absolutely beautiful throughout the whole piece. Barry O'Reilly had the first solo and told the story of a young boy’s sexual awakening while abroad on a holiday to Italy. This first number really set the tone for the whole evening of storytelling. One of the other numbers was a duet with Nicole about both being in love with the same woman and the formation of a polyamorous relationship. The writing of this number and the way it was performed was perfect and brought the audience on a journey through one person, then the other, then the discovery of them being in a polyamorous relationship.


Meg Hill's stand out song for me was their second piece. Titled ‘The Girl Next Door’, the song was about falling in love with her new neighbour and not even knowing her name. The story telling was phenomenal and I truly felt what the character was going through due to the emotional and physical portrayal. Nicole Raquel Dennis did not disappoint with ever stunning vocals. From the first notes they sung onstage to the absolute belters in their individual song, this voice is one not to be reckoned with and absolutely shone onstage. Her start in the song ‘Feathers and Flowers’ was absolutely amazing and was beautifully joined by the rest of the company in harmony later on in the song.


Jaz Terry performed a gorgeous and heartfelt number called ‘My Name’ about having a new name on legal documents which was beautifully performed and came from the heart. For me it felt like the most personal of the numbers out of the night, which is understandable given her recent name change.

One of my favourite parts of the show was the moments of spoken word. These were read from books as if reading other people stories to the audience. The repeated use of these books worked really well to convey the storytelling of each song. Another favourite element of mine was the use of reprising the song 'I am your lifeboat' throughout the show as if to act as a reminder that each song is a lifeboat to help other people going through similar situations and conveying that they aren't alone in their journey.


The song cycle was performed with just a keyboard and natural vocals (without microphones) as well as a recorded voice over at two moments. All four of the performers have such strong and powerful voices that they were clearly heard at all times and at no point was the instrumentation overpowering.

The lighting for this show was exactly what I'd hoped it would be and given the limited amount of time that the show was put together in, was way more detailed than I'd anticipated. The lighting beautifully lit each performer as they had their moment in the spotlight and the lighting also helped convey some of the emotion in the songs. My favourite lighting element was that each performer had a small pile of props, along with a lamp (a different kind of lamp per person) which was then turned on whenever they were telling a story, and turned off when they were watching another story be told. It was a small addition to the show but for me gave a symbolic meaning of 'this is my time to share my story and use it to light the way for someone else'.


Overall this was a very enjoyable piece of theatre that created a shared experience between actors and audience as the stories told were joyful and heartfelt. I can't wait to see where Lifeboats goes from here and I hope it has a future beyond this run.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review

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