Me: fancy coming to see beatboxers perform Frankenstein?
Him: (without missing a …beat)
And this reader is why I married him.
On Tuesday I found myself part of a beatbox symphony. This is the same week that I got my first pair of prescription reading glasses.
Contact theatre played host (and continues to all week) to Battersea Arts Centre’s BAC Beatbox Academy and their highly, HIGHLY entertaining production, Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster.
A reworking of Mary Shelley’s famous tale, the underpinning message of this portrayal is how society creates its own monsters. To an incredible soundtrack.
Well not ‘to’ exactly as the six talented artists are the soundtrack, as every sound, every note, every beat is provided by their own incredible voices straight into the mic.
The 2022 touring cast features emerging artists and co-creators ABH (Alexander Belgarion Hackett), Aminita (Aminita Francis),Aziza (Aziza Amari Brown), Glitch (Nadine Rose Johnson), Native The Cr8ive (Nathaniel Forder-Staple) and Wiz-RD (Tyler Worthington).
The evening was energetically …hosted? MC’d? woven together? …by beatboxer Kate Donnachie.
So what was it exactly? Was it theatre? Was it a musical? Was it a gig, opera? It was all of these with a dose of provoked thought and some really fantastic, original music.
It felt Gorillaz, it felt Morcheeba, Massive Attack…
And it was funny! At one point turning the ‘beatbox battle’ on its head as ‘Frankenstein’ took on ‘The Monster’ in the boxing ring.
And it was educational. I’ll be honest, I was in my first year of uni when we were getting our first mobile phones. No cameras and you were lucky if you had text.
But pieces such as Click Clack (containing the mantra you really shouldn’t post that) and some uncomfortable audience interaction…
(no not the part where we all beatboxed or even when we were encouraged to stand up and rave – yes I did, oh ye of little faith)
…where a spotlight was shone onto audience members to a track about tearing each other’s aesthetic apart, really drove home the challenges of the digital, life-sharing, selfie saturated age. Point truly (and rhythmically) made.
But before we even got to that, got to all that, we were thrillingly introduced to young performers from in and around Manchester, who blew us away with their first time public performances, all a product of workshops attended that week and run by BAC Beatbox Academy. Bra-vo everyone.
Another of those nights where you pinch yourself at how lucky you are to have so much on your Manchester doorstep to open your eyes and minds to.
And how a routine weekday night can lead to cheering on a beatbox battle and a whole new playlist on your Spotify…
Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster is on at Contact until Saturday 14 May. Tickets available via: https://contactmcr.com/shows/bac-beatbox-academy-frankenstein-2/
Want to know more?
The production is co-created by the wider BAC Beatbox Academy, co-directors Conrad Murray (‘High Rise eState of Mind’) and David Cumming (‘Operation Mincemeat’), and BAC. OThis means it has been co-authored by cast members at every stage, who also shape all aspects of presenting the show in its different incarnations.
The company continue to work with young talent everywhere they go. Each live show of ‘Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster’ opens with a curtain-raiser – a short performance created through workshops with local young people – and ends with a beatboxing battle. At Contact, the company will work with young people from Greater Manchester to deliver these workshops across the city.
‘Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster’ is the first professional production from the BAC Beatbox Academy, whose members have developed and adapted the production over the years.
Starting with a small-scale Scratch performance at BAC where they encouraged feedback from the audience, the company continued to build on their success. They returned with sold-out runs at BAC, winning Off West End and Total Theatre Awards, embarked on their first national tour, presented the highest-rated show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019, received rave reviews at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and released their first film which they co-created and shot during the lockdown in 2020.
BAC Beatbox Academy is BAC’s home-grown young performance collective for local artists aged 11-29 years. Since BAC created the Academy in 2008, it has pro-actively engaged harder to reach groups in areas of significant deprivation; locally, throughout the UK and internationally. Through the Academy programme of nurturing rising talent and pushing the boundaries of sound and music, the casts of ‘Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster’ have developed; from a collective of local participants into highly-accomplished performers and music leaders.
‘Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster’ is supported by Arts Council England and Youth Music.