Eugenius! is the new 80s-themed musical running for six weeks at The Other Palace. The show, which has already gathered a bit of a cult following, much like some of the movies it was inspired by, seems to have hit a sweet spot with spectators across generations. A good number of fans turned up to their Superfans event, dressed up as their favourite characters from the story, suggesting this was not their first visit. Indeed, during a pre-show discussion with some of the crew (including producer Warwick Davis and director Ian Talbot), two fans were awarded prizes because they had seen the show around twenty times in the month since it premiered.
What is it about Eugenius! that has generated such a dedicated fan base and strong response from an intergenerational audience? Ian Talbot hazards a guess during the discussion, commenting on the nostalgic nature of the show. Warwick Davis adds: “It is fantastic that people are able to come into this auditorium for two hours and forget the outside world. That’s what theatre and cinema were designed for: to allow us to escape, and Eugenius is a perfect example of a show that allows you to do that.”
Perhaps it is just that, nostalgia and escapism, that have made Eugenius! such a favourite with audiences in 2018. The ‘80s are more than a quarter of a century behind us, but perhaps the lapse of time has only increased our collective fondness of the era, which seems so far removed from our current socio-political climate. We are living in a starkly polarised society, which results in a lot of great political theatre, but might also increase the pull towards theatre of an escapist nature, because, as Warwick Davis describes, more and more people crave that little break from the real-life world.
The underdog-becomes-superhero-theme is about as escapist as it can get, of course. We can all identify with the next-door-guy (or girl), dreaming of a grander life, and eventually achieving his dreams and defeating his enemies, though not before overcoming some hurdles along the way. Throw in a bunch of nostalgic references to a time that for many people represents a part of their youth or childhood, and the effect is complete: the audience falls in love with the story and its setting. Eugenius! basically throws the rose-tinted glasses into their laps, making them yearn for that long-gone time of classic films, disco lights and normal telephones.
As Warwick Davis says, theatre and cinema were designed to allow us to escape. In 2018, this function seems to be very relevant again. Eugenius!’s audiences prove that what people love to see is a classic story, with a happy ending, and catchy, upbeat songs. So we can feel, even if it’s just for two hours, like we’re someone, or somewhere, else. Whether it’s Tough Man, Super Sexy Lady, or just back in the good old ‘80s.
Written by Merel van t Hooft.