Hello Ben. You and Chris Wilkins have been working on a brand new musical Eugenius! for the last few years. Please can you tell me a bit about how the show came about?
It’s our love letter to everything we loved while growing up in the 80’s. It’s such a magical era for us; the movies, the music, the clothes. We had been wanting to write a musical for some time and finally got down to it after a beer or five at a pub in Clapham, which is probably why it’s so bonkers…
Eugenius is a love story set in the world of comic books and geek culture in the 1980s. Did you do a lot of research into culture from that era during the creative process, and as a child of the 80s yourself, was it fun to reminisce while working on ideas?
We had the best time reminiscing about all the old toys we used to have (or Chris still has), listening to our favourite tunes and googling all the outrageous outfits. I think it’s been a lot of fun for everyone concerned to be given free reign on what they can create. We’ve restricted none of our creative departments and told them to go wild; there aren’t many shows that you can do that with!
In the show, the main character Eugene creates his own comic book; which is picked up by a Hollywood executive to become a movie. With the current resurgence of superhero movies over the last ten or so years, thanks to the likes of Marvel and DC, do you feel that it’s the right time to get the musical out there to that kind of audience?
There have been several superhero musicals out recently and I’ve been to see them all. Superheroes are definitely very popular right now. I think our show differs though; as, yes, it is set on a backdrop of superheroes and space, but the main story here is of the three central characters. They are kids finding their inner hero in a small town in the 80’s and also getting the opportunity to make a movie in Hollywood.
The superhero that Eugene creates for his book is called Tough Man. If you could be a superhero for the day, what powers would you like to possess and why?
I would have to go with being able to click my fingers and be wherever I wanted to be in the world. I spend half my life travelling from a to b, and feel there isn’t enough time in the day to complete every task I’ve set for myself; so it would be great to skip that part. Also, to maybe get a holiday instantly; I can’t remember what one of those is like!
The songs that I’ve heard so far seem really catchy, and perfect to draw audiences in to sing along with them. Was there anything in particular that really influenced you when writing the music for Eugenius, or did it just come naturally from the ideas and themes as the story was being written?
It’s just me being able to do exactly what I want to do with no constraints. I write and produce a lot of the time for other artists, and essentially have to do what I’m asked to do; but this was a whole different kettle of fish. It was a very freeing experience, and that’s probably one of the reasons that it’s my favourite project that I’ve ever done!
Two absolute screen legends, Brian Blessed and Warwick Davis, have both offered their talents to the show; with Brian voicing the narrator, otherwise known as The Great Space Lord, and Warwick producing the show. How did you persuade them to come on board with the project, and what is it like working with them?
Thankfully, it was a fairly easy process persuading them to do it; in fact, once they had heard the music they said yes immediately. Chris and I had specific people in mind when we were writing the characters, and it’s an absolute dream for us to actually get the real deal to work with rather than have to resort to similar copies or imitate them ourselves! It was also an added bonus that Warwick loved it so much that he wanted to jump on board as a producer.
Eugenius! has been somewhat of an underground, word of mouth phenomenon so far; but following the concert performance, you have already had a lot of wonderful feedback. Other musicals that have started off as a bit of a ‘cult’ show in the past have grown to ridiculous popularity (For example, Rocky Horror has been around for over forty years now). Could you see Eugenius! sticking around for future generations to enjoy?
That’s the idea. It’s such a great piece of work that I am so proud of, so I would love for it to have a life of its own and be seen all over the world for years and years to come.
Final question; in your opinion, why should people go to see Eugenius! over other shows at the moment?
Because IT IS AMAZING! I’ve never worked with such a talented bunch of actors, creatives, choreographers, lighting, sound, set designers, directors and musicians before. If you miss it you’ll miss out. I’m essentially an audience member while I’m sitting in rehearsals right now and I am having to pinch myself!
Eugenius! comes to The Other Palace in London Victoria for a limited run of six weeks from 22nd January – 3rd March 2018. For more information about this brilliant new musical or to book tickets, please visit the website.