Review - It's Only Life (Union Theatre)

It's Only Life depicts life as a series of moments. Some are happy, some are sad, and some are somewhere in-between. Starring a troupe of 5 performers who work in perfect harmony together, It's Only Life flows seamlessly from start to finish, as it celebrates the ups and downs of some of the most universal of human fears via the music of American Songwriter John Bucchino. Instead of focusing on specific characters, the production is a song cycle which explores universal themes via a huge collective of characters, each of which is given the length of a single song to connect to the audience. It’s a testament to Bucchino’s intelligent writing and the slick yet playful direction of Tania Azevedo that the result is a charming show which grips its audience with a careful combination of humour and melancholy, and doesn’t let go until the final number is through.
The cast of It's Only Life
Photo credit - Pamela Raith
Before the performance even begins, the audience is transported into an almost dreamlike world impossible to place in any particular time and painted all in white save a few props which stand out in red, green, blue and yellow pastel shades. Justin Williams and Jonny Rust’s eclectically designed set perfectly reflects the themes of the show. Surrounding the characters with a clutter of banal everyday items such as chairs, telephones and even an overflowing laundry basket, the space becomes a physical manifestation of the central idea of It’s Only Life, which is that life goes on no matter what.

The delightful songs of Bucchino, which are performed back to back without much breathing room, merge into each other with such ease that swathes of the show simply wash over the audience like a serene wave, piqued by a couple of comedic upbeat numbers which bring about several necessary changes of pace.

Notably, Will Carey, recently a finalist in the Stephen Sondheim Society Young Performer of the Year Awards, is given an excellent moment to shine during On My Bedside Table, a riotous and relatable song about trying to outdo an ex to prove you've moved on when, of course, you haven't. Meanwhile Jennifer Harding shines brightly in the delicately tragic I’ve Learned To Let Things Go, a number which brings the show to one of its few, and undoubtedly most heartrending, pauses.

It must be said though, that the most gorgeous musical moments occur when all 5 voices combine during the show's group numbers. Songs such as That Smile, which is choreographed to present a tangled web of unrequited loves, and the uplifting Taking The Wheel, which brings the cast together as the show begins to wind down, showcase the tight harmonies of the company, as well as their chemistry as an ensemble.

A sleek and impressive ensemble and a jigsaw puzzle of narratives which captivate from start to finish, It’s Only Life is life-affirming musical journey which will leave audiences floating on air.