There’s an upbeat charm that hangs over Grey Area Theatre’s Help! We Are Still Alive. With music and lyrics by Tim Gilvin and Imogen Palmer and direction by Georgie Rankcom, this is a cutesy survivalist musical that manages to pull off a typically difficult trope to show well onstage.
Incredibly joyful despite the bleak setting
Finn (Elijah Ferreira) and Jass (Jade Johnson) are the last two people alive after a major apocalyptic event strikes the planet. Going through the motions of survival, we are taken through the events of the apocalypse, the evolving nature of their relationship and their search for other survivors.
Despite the cheery atmosphere and seemingly unbridled joy that permeates through most of this musical, there’s something missing, but it’s hard to tell exactly what. It just lacks a certain vigour that could shoot it right into greatness. Although this show’s premise is believable and manages to explain the background to the situation well, there are some unanswered questions that lead to minor confusion. Gilvin and Palmer’s music is incredibly upbeat and catchy, but the lyrics and emotions within the songs themselves seem repetitive, in that they all deal with the same emotion, just using different words. Having Ferreira play a guitar live onstage is a nice touch that brightens the stage in a whimsical way, but there are songs where a backing track is used, which begs the question, why not just have one or the other? Apart from the relationship dynamic between Jass and Finnhe, the book itself lacks conflict and any real sources of tension, despite there being times when this has the potential to develop.
Despite all of this, there are clear moments of ingenuity throughout. For example, periods of normality within the apocalypse setting and the music, like mentions of Asda or pop culture, that seem so out of place yet joyful in what we would imagine a post-apocalyptic wasteland to be like, are incredibly humorous and well-placed. The ability to make the ordinary extraordinary does speak to the talent of the writing, as well as Lu Herbert’s set design, which recreates a post-apocalyptic wasteland in the most minimalist way and shows us so much about the characters and their setting.
The relationship dynamic between Ferreira and Johnson is incredibly solid. Their dynamic is incredibly moving and the pair have great chemistry. Ferreira’s ability to multitask onstage is incredibly impressive. His rendition of the lullaby I’ve Got You is breathtaking, in that he pours so much emotion into the song, we can hardly dare to breathe for fear of disturbing him. Johnson also has a powerfully impressive voice. Her overall demeanour is incredibly happy, which breaks all stereotypes for heroines in survivalist stories. The pair is a delight, and we cannot help but feel a little wistful whilst watching them.
Help! We Are Still Alive is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a nice, wholesome musical with catchy and creative tunes that just contains a lot of warmth within the music and characters. It’s incredibly joyful despite the bleak setting and is a nice respite and change from reality.