Millennials have this old fashioned image of the theatre with actors in dusty costumes reciting boring monologues about issues that no longer apply to this generation.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Theatre is exciting, passionate and relevant to our society. However, it’s the theatres’ job to make sure that people my age (the dreaded millennial) know that. No one loves 200-year-old theatres more than I do, all the red velvet and gold, with a high ceiling and a beautiful chandelier, not to forget the history. But, that doesn’t mean that the productions can’t be modern or take a creative approach.
One director who has already figured out that the millenials of today are the future theatre lovers of tomorrow is Jamie Lloyd. The British director has just finished working on his second season at Trafalgar Studios just off Trafalgar Square. One of his most iconic plays of this year was “The Maids,” starring Uzo Aduba. Jamie Lloyd transformed the 1947 play by French playwright Jean Genet into a contemporary piece, by using modern techno music as background noise, lighting effects and the creative staging. The audience surrounds a four-poster rectangle, which is meant to be a room of the mansion where the play is set. Compartments on the floor open with props hidden inside them and the floor is covered with rose pedals. Whereas this is Jamie Lloyd’s interpretation of the play it does not overshadow the economic and racial differences concerning the main characters.
Other theatres take a different approach to the setting inside the theatre. The Harold Pinter Theatre has renovated its theatre just for a two-year run of “Sunny Afternoon.” This is a show about the British cult band The Kinks, yet this show that would generally attract people who grew up with their songs, brings in an audience with at least a quarter of millennials. They have renovated the theatre and made the front section look like a club in the 60s with tables and a catwalk. This gives the show the little extra that makes it so extraordinary. When sitting in the front, you are surrounded by the music and it feels like you’re watching The Kinks perform in a club.
Immersive theatre and issues resonate with a millennial’s reality. There are now several shows that are interactive. People feel special and will be sucked into the show, it’s an experience that they won’t forget so quickly. It will stick with them as its not just watching a performance for two hours. In others you are blind folded and enjoy a full radio play with surround sound. Millennials don’t necessarily care about issues that were relevant 100 years ago. They want to see plays that touch on issues that they experience on a regular basis, as these are problems they can relate to and understand. “People, Places and Things,” an award-winning play at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London was not only remarkable for its staging with part of the audience sitting on the stage. It talks about addiction, low self-esteem and the need to improve a dull life with self-medication. One quote that has stuck with me, couldn’t be more relevant in the times we live in: “I’d like to believe that my problems are meaningful. But they’re not. There are people dying of thirst. People living in war zones and here we are thinking about ourselves. As if we can solve everything by confronting our own defects. We’re not defective. It’s the world that’s fucked.” This is just one of the powerful lines that the main character (Emma played by the Olivier award-winning Denise Gough) delivers. The play has celebrated immense success and rave feedback from an audience of any age. Its harsh honesty about the problems in the world we live in has landed a hit with millennials.
Whereas some theatre productions work better with a traditional approach, I for one can not imagine a version of “Richard II,” that is set in the 21st century. However, the truth is that most of the people my age have very little interest in theatre, mostly based on the fact that they don’t know enough about it. Millennial’s need to be intrigued by productions in order for most to decide to set foot inside a theatre for the first time. As a theatre obsessed millennial, I can tell you know, they will definitely be back.
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About the Reviewer – Sarah Louhichi
I’m a former exchange student in Los Angeles, now studying journalism at the University of Westminster in London. I’m a theatre lover and hopeful future theatre critic. I call the West End, London’s theatre wonderland, my second home. I’m the creator of millenniallondon.com, a website dedicated to London’s culture and lifestyle, run by millennials. I’m always on a mission to get the best deals and cheapest tickets for my favourite shows. Sunny Afternoon, a show about the English band The Kinks is my guilty pleasure, I’ve seen it 35 times and counting.