Elliot Clay’s pop-infused, highly relatable song cycle plays its limited season until 7th August – and it’s definitely not one to miss
Stepping into the Other Palace’s Studio, one might be forgiven for imagining as if they had been transported into a pre-teen millennium bind. The entire space has been bedazzled in pink foil, replete with ball pit, bumper car, beanbags and – of course – inflatable furniture. There was a time when entire bedrooms could have been crafted out of the flimsy, plasticky, squeaky material, but there were very few who did not secretly covet it. The effect is almost immediate. The sense of bon homie between audience members grows infinitely through the shared experience – though quite whether this conceit is truly aimed at millennials is debatable: after all, being born in 1994 – very much a late millennial – even I am filled with dread at the prospect of perching upon a bean bag out of the very real fear that I may be unable to get back up from it, so quite what most other millennials think is something else entirely. Additionally, the design could have benefitted from more precise seating: leaning against a cushioned bar is by no means comfortable, though at least the show is short and energetic to not make this too arduous a task.
But just what is a millennial? Objectively and culturally, the term defines those born between 1981 to 1996. Like all generations this is far from a homogenous group, with current millennials spanning from mid 20s to early 40s, but the formative years were characterised by major advancements in technology, the rise of pop culture, not to mention the birth of the internet. If you ask the media, it’s the “snowflake” generation – the perpetually offended keyboard warriors. The lazy layabouts who live in their parents’ basements because they’re unable to afford their own property – not because of the unattainable standard of the housing market meaning you literally have to sacrifice a parent in order to be able to step onto it, but because of poor economic decision making on the part of the individual.
There is no one way to conceive of a millennial, but Millennials: A Pop Song Cycle does a pretty decent job at encapsulating what it means to be a young person in today’s climate. It shines a light upon the frustrations of being unheard and dismissed by those generations that came before you in pop punk “Gen3r@tion No One”, the excitement and giddiness of first loves (regardless of how reckless) “Remember the Feeling”. “21st Century Girl” is precisely what one might expect, with highly witty, pointed lyrics. “Some Day” signals the disillusionment of growing up and having to sacrifice one’s dreams in favour of practicality. “Four Little Words” and “Priceless” are also highly relatable and incredibly hilarious, one detailing the importance of, quite simply, not being a dick, while “Priceless” is about an encounter with a previous high school bully who is thriving while you are…well, not. A couple of quieter moments are included too, with Hannah Lowther’s “Masterpiece” about dealing with her own insecurities, and “Count My Blessings”, in which Hiba Elchikhe melts the audience’s faces off while belting about feeling isolated despite how connected our lives seem with the improvements in technology.
It would be churlish to assume that these problems merely exist for millennials. They also exist, and doubtless will exist, for Generation Z and Generation Alpha. Each generation suffers at the hand of the one before, derided and put down by those who are older. Yet, despite the name, the creatives involved know that, with both writer Elliot Clay and director Hannah Benson making it clear in the programme notes that Millennials is more about celebrating the similarities and insecurities that are shared between all humans, not merely millennials.
There is not a single song in the soundtrack that is unremarkable. All of them are thoroughly enjoyable in their own way, covering a tremendous breadth of styles while remaining a cohesive early-2000s’ sounding pop. A cast recording is sorely needed to immortalise this cast at work.
Every single member of the cast is a supreme talent that it is impossible to single out just one of them. With nothing in the way of plot linking the songs, it is up to the performers themselves to bring their own energy to proceedings, which they achieve in spades. Luke Bayer (Rent, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) is as boisterously charismatic as ever, with incredible vocal agility to boot. Hiba Elchikhe (Lift, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) also brings a beautiful energy to the stage and is infinitely watchable. Luke Latchman (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) is utterly captivating, and manages to get his mouth around some really challenging lyrics with alarming clarity in “Priceless”. Hannah Lowther (Heathers) brings a tremendous vulnerability to her role as well as being a commanding presence. Rob Madge (Bedknobs and Broomsticks, My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do?) is an absolute hoot with a terrific, dry delivery that really makes “Four Little Words” come to life. Finally, Georgina Onuorah (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella) is just phenomenal. Her voice is so brilliantly versatile and powerful and her stage presence is massively compelling.
Millennials plays its limited engagement at The Other Palace’s Studio until 7 August. Tickets can be purchased here.