Debating whether to sit in the elevated section or centre front upon arrival with my guest, I’m glad we decided centre front. We were up close and personal with all the action.
Making it’s Australian debut at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) Beatbox Academy all the way from the UK, lead by the coolest cat Conrad, are a bunch of uber talented youth presenting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in an innovative and electrifying combination of beatbox, theatre and song – all live and all made from the mouth.
We begin the evening hearing about BAC’s collaboration with our own youth arts centre, Carclew, and Conrad introduces three incredibly raw, but oh so adept kids; Ocean, T-Dog and Eemes, as a curtain raiser to the evening’s performance. They had been workshopping beats, jamming, raps and writing lyrics. Except Ocean. She had no lyrics and was going to freestyle with words the audience threw at her.
Chicken, Madhouse, Rabies, Sausage.
Yep, she killed it!
Conrad then turned the audience into a Beatbox orchestra by giving us a speed session in beatboxing.
This was a clever warm up; showing the audience just how difficult beatboxing really is.
The mood took a serious turn as the performance started.
Six artists sitting atop black boxes, dressed in jeans and grey hoodies.
It is announced.
Chapter 1: Knowledge.
For the first time, we hear their signature and original song ‘Genius’.
A powerhouse of vocal gymnastics, mind bending soundscapes and magnetising storytelling.
Amanita, with the voice of an angel and the attitude of a matron brought the house down with her rendition, and her subsequent reprises of ‘Genius’.
Chapter 2: How to Make a Monster.
ABH, the UK’s number one beatboxer, and it’s not hard to see why, takes on the journey to building the Monster, one organ at a time.
A superb medley of songs representing each body part as they make their way from the head ‘Firestarter’ to the feet ‘ I Feel Good’.
This scene really displayed their prodigious musicality and harmonies.
We meet Glitch, a super charismatic rapper, singer and storyteller singing another original track ‘Stretch’ before the lightning sounds to ‘It’s Alive’.
Chapter 3: Growing Pains.
This time, it’s Grove’s time to shine in ‘Generation Anonymous’. The angst and pain shown really has you wondering, who is actually the monster here? And who really created it?
My favourite scene; Dr Frankenstein vs The Monster, is a stylised fighting/beatboxing competition with Lil Wizard; a young beatboxer who looks so reserved but lets out jaw dropping beats against his team-mates, with ABH as the ring announcer.
This ‘Battle Song’ was absolutely gut wrenching, as was the incredible movement choreography.
Chapter 4: The World Uncensored
Crickets, birds, water droplets, heartbeats, even a violin playing. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a pre recorded soundtrack. But no, this was live, from their mouths!
It is during this scene, and Glitch’s rap, that we begin to really understand we all are the monsters and that we created them through social media, unrealistic beauty expectations, and societal conformity.
They turn the figurative and literal spotlight on audience members and begin throwing insults, slander and abuse, before turning against their own.
Chapter 5: The Descent.
We now have the Monster in such conflict, which Groves portrays with such convincing humility and agony. She has a devil on one shoulder and the angel Amanita on the other, trying to talk her off the ledge. But the Monster is determined to unplug.
With a brilliant mashup/medley of all the original songs and some covers to finish, Frankenstein is truly a feast for all the senses, and a show like no other.
You will leave with a whole new appreciation and perception of the art of beatboxing.
These extraordinary kids ooze such talent, charm (yes, I’m talking about you Nath) likeability and personality, they’ll leave you wanting more.
Happy theatre travels…
This review also features on the Theatre Travels website – www.theatretravels.org