Millennials at The Other Palace – review
Elliot Clay's new song cycle runs until 7 August
Walk into The Basement at The Other Palace and you will find hot pink cellophane and glittery plastic tassels covering the walls, slinkies hanging from the ceiling, audience members lounging in ball pits decorated with rubber ducks, and little love hearts graffitied onto pillars. A lone figure (Luke Bayer) stands on an avocado-shaped stage and opens up to the audience with sparkling eyes about the stage fright he experiences singing into a microphone. Although the design and performances are filled with attention to detail, Elliot Clay's songwriting does not live up to their standard. The show is an enjoyable mix of dancing, pop songs and props for the audience to interact with, but it doesn't really capture what it is to be a millennial.
The cast bust out hip-cocking and intricate arm and hand movement with crisp energy, but Tinovimbanashe Sibanda's choreography is bursting to be let loose on a bigger space – the moves are sharp but stay small and simmering, and never quite manage to turn up to full heat. A trampoline lies centre stage as the avocado pit. Performers stay largely on the edges of the fruit and only jump on the trampoline here and there, which feels like a directorial waste of a good set. Microphones cut out and the keyboard sounds a little tinny, while a big guitar solo comes in at a seemingly random point in the show and feels anticlimactic. It is not so much that there would have been a better point in which to put it, as that the song cycle has no sense of progression or emotional focus. It is mostly a collection of songs with fairly generic lyrics.
Still, there are some stand-out moments. Hannah Lowther gives an intimate performance, looking straight into the eyes of the audience with earnestness, in the heart-wrenching solo "Masterpiece" about self-esteem. The musical arrangement and lighting design in this section are stunning – bell-like acapella vocals and a soft, textured spotlight set up a quiet tone in which the actress can shine. Luke Latchman is comically relatable in the solo "Priceless" about a young man who is living with his parents and working three jobs, when he runs into his old school bully who is a successful businesswoman due to her dad's contacts. Despite the other tunes' fun factor, they are mostly standard pop, and don't push musical boundaries. Actors Georgina Onuorah and Hiba Elchikhe belt out riffs for all they are worth, but the writing doesn't quite bring out the performers' emotional range.
Overwhelmingly, the show fails to capture the millennial zeitgeist – most millennials don't care about avocados as much as boomers say they do. The set, hair costumes and make up are the main elements in the show that feel millennial – white eyeliner, shaggy hair and pop-colour eyeshadow all sit on a diverse cast which includes Tik Tok comedy star and WhatsOnStage Award-winner Rob Madge looking gorgeous in non-binary finery. Were it not for the textured pink and yellow lighting and the garish and sumptuous set design – which is so camp that it could not help but be millennial – the show could be set in any time period. There needs to be more specificity in the lyrics to ground the song cycle in a shared generational experience.