It’s Only Life
Reviewed – 15th June 2018
“Bucchino’s songs embrace the full spectrum of contemporary urban living with sensitivity and wit”
It’s Only Life, John Bucchino and Daisy Prince’s musical revue of twenty-three heart-breaking and hilarious songs, is already a well-known enterprise in the world of American musical theatre. And rightly so: Bucchino’s songs embrace the full spectrum of contemporary urban living with sensitivity and wit. Laid side by side, the songs dip, twist and soar, telling a collective story of stasis, desire, love, heartbreak and redemption.
The ensemble of five performers master these songs beautifully. Recent graduates Sammy Graham and Will Carey keep their cool amongst the more experienced performers Jennifer Harding, Noel Sullivan and Jordan Shaw, and, apart from some lyrics getting lost at the beginning, the vocals are flawless. Harding exudes pathos narrating the crossing paths of two lovers in ‘Sweet Dreams’, and Carey memorably toys with his audience in the hilarious ‘On My Bedside Table’, gritting his teeth trying to prove he is not at all phased by “the fact that you and I are definitely through”. ‘Grateful’ bookends the piece and allows Sullivan a moment to show off his vocal range and power. It’s refreshing that these performers can show restraint when it’s needed. This is a show about the songs and the story, not ego.
Justin Williams’ design stands out from the off. Cleverly using pastel blues, pinks, greens and oranges on a simple white background, Williams has created a space where props are close to hand and levels are used to maximum effect. Our stories can move from downtown bars to lonely bedrooms with little effort and give the songs a crucial context. Tania Azevedo’s direction too, is unflashy and in full service to the symphony of stories. No movement feels unnecessary, and the precision of the cast shows a wide variety of environments that the space itself would never allow.
The message of It’s Only Life is hardly original, but kindly reminds us to embrace the things we fear. These songs act as stepping stones, from risk to risk, and we can only learn as we go how best to get to the other side. Ultimately, it’s a redemptive and moving revue. I saw audience members crying, holding hands, laughing out loud. The ensemble, representing a sexually diverse Britain, behave familiarly with their audience as if to say: “These are our stories, but they’re yours too”. And that is where It’s Only Life really succeeds. Anyone can find a story here, or a moment, to relate to.
It’s Only Life is an unforgettably enjoyable experience that comes highly recommended. Great songs, great vocals, great emotions … what’s not to love?
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photogrpahy by Pamela Raith
It’s Only Life
Union Theatre until 7th July
Previously reviewed at this venue