Watching Alix Addinall’s millennium baby is an arresting, personal experience. The intimate setting certainly helps: the audience is jam-packed into the ADC’s Larkum Studio, with a handful of late comers left to stand at the back of the room. Luckily, I’ve grabbed a seat just in time – I’m sitting in the second row, behind the writer. When Addinall introduces the play, together with director Louella Lucas, she’s got a slightly nervous, excited energy, as if she’s talking to friends she doesn’t know that well. Maybe there’s a bit of pride in there too. This production has a lot to be proud of.
Although this is the first rehearsed reading, the show hopes to run as a fully-fledged play in the future. The story centres around a semi-autobiographical version of Addinall – Robin, expressively played by Imogen Woods-Wilford – and her experience of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. Grappling with her mental health and queer coming-of-age, she reminisces on her life pre-Covid and struggles to come to terms with the new world she finds herself living in. These are difficult, weighty topics – like I said, this show is personal – and at times, the audience is left feeling just as overwhelmed as Robin herself. When this effect is intentional, it is strikingly executed: in one raw scene, every character simultaneously begins speaking/chatting/shouting to the audience about their own hidden insecurities, their voices merging into a cathartic kind of chaos you can’t help but relate to. Other times, however, Robin’s spiral of cynicism becomes so intense that the audience is lost, struggling to keep up right when it feels most important to listen.
“The play is coloured with a hazy, bittersweet nostalgia.”
The show is split between the present-day – Robin’s experience of lockdown – and the past – her memories of her school-friends pre-pandemic. These memories prove a necessary breather amidst the introspective monologues that characterise the present-day scenes. The witty banter between Jake (Yaz O’Mahoney), Nora (Joy Adeogun), Hana (Yen-Yen Loke) and Robin herself is always vibrant and often hilarious: their spirited takes on everything from politics to dating to future plans feel impressively real. At the same time, the circa. 2016 throwback colours the play with a hazy, bittersweet nostalgia. I find myself excited every time they burst onto the stage.
The tentative romance that unfurls in the play’s latter half is similarly charming: a slightly bashful first-love between two women – though this at times threatens to be derailed by Robin’s insecurities. Meg Reynolds plays Freya, Robin’s love interest, with a frank clarity that lends itself well to the role, encouraging Robin out of her room and into the post-lockdown world. If anything, more might have been made out of their shy flirting and general tension. At times, it feels more like the characters are talking at each other than to each other – when this happens, some chemistry is lost. Even so, when Freya kisses Robin’s cheek, the moment is tender. Towards the end of the show, a new excitement begins to fizz under the surface; there is some new hope, at least, in Robin’s post-Covid world.
“millennium baby is an arresting, personal experience.”
millennium baby is a show with a deeply personal core, and a lot of promise. Robin’s fears and dreams for the future stay with me as I leave the Larkum Studio; these are the kind of themes you feel compelled to talk and think about after. Whilst the play’s intensity can sometimes edge towards overpowering the rest of the show, the writing and directing are highly impressive, with consistently powerful, passionate acting from all parties involved. In any case – when millennium baby is shown again in its more finished form, you can bet I’ll be buying a ticket.
Feature image credits: millennium baby publicity, edited by Miranda Stephenson in the style of Evie Chandler
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