The Life Of Us

23 January 2020 | 12:18 pm | Sean Maroney

"[A] sincere, straight-up-and-down musical that doesn’t hold back on the cheese." Pic by Grant Leslie.

The Life Of Us follows Charlie (Ben Bennett) and Ellie (Ashleigh Taylor) as they navigate the difficulties of their long-distance relationship. Ben and his best mate and manager Mike (Christian Charisiou) have gone to the UK to pursue their music dreams. Ellie has stayed in Australia to juggle a promising career and near full-time care of Grace (Pippa Grandison), her mother with dementia. As Ben and Mike’s opportunities extend their stay time and time again, Grace’s dementia worsens and Ellie yearns for support.

The show launches straight into its first song, which shares its chorus with the musical’s title The Life Of Us. It’s refreshing and fun to know what you’re getting into: this is a sincere, straight-up-and-down musical that doesn’t hold back on the cheese. When first speaking to each other over the phone, Ellie and Ben have big fat smiles slapped across their faces. Their love is sincere and soppy, as if they are still riding the same wave they were first swept up in when they were 16 years old: Ben, the guitarist who was never the smartest in class, Ellie, who would never have thought he would be into her. 

The two leads, Bennett and Taylor, wrote the story, with Bennett also writing the music and lyrics - no small feat. Their performances are impressive, though at times the emotional strife of their characters resembles a long whine. Charisiou gives the audience great comedic relief and Grandison is sensitive and wonderful to watch as the ailing mother.

Unfortunately, it is the musical’s sweetness that undermines it. It becomes unbearably saccharine and its storyline feels one-note. The core emotional drama, the two lovers dealing with their (run-of-the-mill) long-distance relationship doesn’t generate a great sense of pathos. The songs’ poppy drumlines and cruisy, upbeat melodies first set the tone well, but again fail to demonstrate a variety that maintains an audience’s investment in the characters’ trials.

This being said, there are moments of great enjoyment. The first half-hour of the show strikes many great chords, and the wacky 'Wine Time' is hilarious (though stylistically out of place, leaning into this direction could enliven other parts of the piece). 

For those that relish the sentimental or who are hopeless, hopeless romantics, you may find a story that sings to you. It is difficult to see how successful this piece will be amid the cynical culture of 2020, but stories about the ardour of love are boundless in their potential.