Eugenius! at The Other Palace
Good music and good humour, teamed up with the universal themes of friendship and the fight against evil, make Eugenius! hard to resist.
In Victoria, just past the Hamilton-starred Victoria Palace Theatre, The Other Palace celebrates its first birthday with a brilliant show. The venue continues to be a brimming creative hub, and proprietor Andrew Lloyd Webber writes that it has supported 28 new musicals so far since it opened.
Eugene (Liam Forde) is an “average Joe” whose mother taught him “not to shoot at the stars, but higher”. The line recurs now and again as, mocked by his schoolmates and discouraged by his father, the boy is tempted to abandon his superhero’s book. A comic geek, Eugene is drawing the story of Tough Man, “tough but fair”, who wins his enemies with the power of verbal persuasion. The boy manages to bring his idea to Hollywood, thanks to the help of Janey (Laura Baldwin), that friend who stays in the friendzone but actually would like more from her relationship with Eugene. But the Powermax Pictures production doesn’t seem to follow the teenager’s script, twisting the plot to make it a lucrative blockbuster. But what no one ever expected was that the real Evil Lord Hector (Ian Hughes) would appear on the set, determined to destroy the (fake) Tough Man.
Despite the narrow stage, the ensemble performs miracles, skipping the small stairs and doing acrobatics, often all six together, with large movements and freakish costumes. They are an unparalleled dynamo for the whole show. All the cast are outstanding, from their powerful voices to the brilliant performances of hilarious scenes. The eccentric Feris (Daniel Buckley) and the euphoric Janey, in particular, establish a special connection with the audience.
The pace is quite loose at the beginning, but soon becomes animated. The script follows the classic emotional elements of young people growing up and their life stories of learning about friendship, love, never giving up on our dreams, and the capitalistic movie industry. The engaging tunes and the vibrant colours, though, make the show really stand out. Reliving the 80s vibes, the production features bold techno garments and wonderful original music that will be difficult for theatregoers to get out of their minds at the end of the night.
Cultural references are cleverly scattered all through the play, spanning from West End hits such as Les Miserables to the iconic Flashdance track Maniac. Comics are, needless to say, the overarching theme, but there are also frequent references to Star Wars. The cherry on top, thus, is the voice of Kevin the Robot, performed by Mark Hamill, best known as Luke Skywalker in the original George Lucas trilogy.
Photo: Pamela Raith
Eugenius is at The Other Palace from 22nd January until 3rd March 2018. For further information or to book visit the website here.