Pros: Impossibly fun with a strong narrative and score.
Cons: Not for those who don’t appreciate the occasional cheesy convention.
From opening number to standing ovation, I was gripped throughout this entire fast-paced and phenomenal show. After being catapulted into 1980’s Ohio, we meet a trio of endearing geeks: loveable Janey played by the pitch perfect Laura Baldwin; confident and humorous Feris, this role deliciously delivered by Daniel Buckley; and our comic obsessed protagonist Eugene, brought to life by the mesmerising Rob Houchen.
Eugene squirrels himself away, ferociously sketching his comic ideas of ‘Tough Man’ and ‘Super Hot Lady’ as they battle the ‘Evil Lord Hector’ to save the world from his dastardly ways and deadly laser beams. Soon our geeks will become our heroes as this powerful piece progresses.
What earns this glorious show its dedicated fanbase (some excitable audience members were dressed in full merchandise) is its indescribable atmosphere of pure joy and its unapologetic self-awareness. Several moments in the show directly addressed the typical musical tropes and conventions to which it was playing into – “last two left on stage sing the power ballad!” – and these little acknowledgements created such comical and relatable humour.
Ben Adams’ and Chris Wilkins’ fantastically fresh writing creates inclusivity and a constant magnetic pull towards the stage. The score is delightful and the story lends itself to the uplifting and enjoyable numbers in a fluid manner masterfully complemented by some sharp choreography. Overall, narratively it has clearly been lovingly crafted by both Adams and Wilkins with real heart and hilarity.
Design wise, it’s difficult not to be completely enamoured with the unbelievable visuals of this production. The two platform heights give generous spacing to what sometimes can be a crowded stage at The Other Palace and allow the wonderful band to be seen onstage at all times; a feature with I personally believe to be very important. The galaxy paint splatter paired with sleek black metal staging subtly solidified the intergalactic themes and gave weight to the futuristic vision.
One element of this production which I cannot stop ranting and raving about to anyone who will listen is Andrew Ellis’ sensational lighting design. Draped LED fairy lights around the auditorium worked wonders in subconsciously adding that real physical feeling of power to dramatic scenes. The onstage lighting booms, that I was initially skeptical of, conjured beautiful silhouettes and threw some gorgeous purples and pinks into the audience, once again enveloping us in an intergalactic fantasy. The strip lighting on the underside of the platforms gave serious UFO connotations and the snappy cues created such a strong punchy comic feel. Ellis’ vision as a lighting designer is truly incredible and a wonder to behold.
Within Eugenius! design and narrative work in perfect synchronicity, producing a fantastic marriage of theatre craft. The atmosphere within the theatre rhythmically bounces back and forth between cast and audience creating what I can only describe as a plasma ball of energy. This production is a credit to all those involved and a true gem in London’s theatre scene.
Book, Music and Lyrics: Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins
Director: Ian Talbot
Choreographer: Aaron Renfree
Lighting Design: Andrew Ellis
Producers: Warwick Davis, Kevin Wood and George Wood
Booking Until: 20 October 2018
Box Office: 0207 087 7900
Booking Link: https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/whats-on/eugenius/booking