Elliot Clay was on tour in India with Million Dollar Quartet just before lockdown started. He talks to Giverny Masso about the musical Millennials, which he has been writing during the pandemic…
How did you get into theatre?
I got into theatre at a really young age by doing amateur dramatics. I’m from Stoke-on-Trent, and we’re lucky that we’ve got quite a few amdram societies. I got my first proper taste of wanting to be an actor aged 12 when I did a couple of professional shows at the New Vic Theatre. I did Oliver! and The Wizard of Oz, which were amazing. Then I was lucky enough to get into Mountview when I was 18, and I did the musical theatre course there.
What were you doing before lockdown started?
I’d been to India with Million Dollar Quartet. It was strange because when we were in India everything was normal, but by the end of the contract we started getting temperature checks before we could get back into the hotel, so I think we left at the right point. Then we were due to do a six-month UK tour and we ended up doing Southampton and one show in Southend. I think on that night we were one of the only shows that went on, so it was quite surreal knowing we were perhaps doing one of the last shows for quite a while. I’m glad that I had a job to lose in some ways. To be there for that did feel historic.
Tell me about the musical you are working on?
When you call something Millennials everyone probably has their own thoughts about what is in it – hopefully it’s that and more. It’s a pop concert musical, telling lots of different stories about what it’s like to live in this beautifully horrible world that we find ourselves in. It’s reflecting the good, bad, ugly and everything else. The idea – because it’s an album first and foremost – is to use the kind of language you’d hear on a Spotify playlist, as opposed to the more conventional musical theatre songs.
What has it been like working during lockdown?
I came up with the idea of wanting to write a song cycle about two years ago. I was in-between jobs as an actor and was writing to stay busy and stay creative and carve out my own path. There was about a year of me thinking about writing and not doing much writing. And for over a year now I’ve been solidly writing it. It’s been a long process. Millennials is the first musical I’ve ever written entirely by myself, so that is already challenging. In some ways, lockdown has been a bit of a blessing in disguise, because obviously I’m just left with all this free time and I am able to dedicate myself fully to it.
What is your top tip for staying motivated during lockdown?
When it feels like this endless black void in front of you where you don’t know what’s coming next, it can be hard to motivate yourself. The reason I started writing Millennials was to try to carve my own path and not have to wait for the phone to ring for someone to offer me a job. You’ve got to keep that fire in your belly going and keep pushing through it.
Training: Musical Theatre BA at Mountview (2012-15)
First professional role: First cover for the role of Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet on tour and in the West End (2016-17)
Agent: Emily Rose at Cooper Searle Personal Management