For the last two years, the BAC Beatbox Academy have been working on gig theatre piece Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster – I don’t care what they do next. I just want to be there.

The BAC Beatbox Academy has been running at the Battersea Arts Centre for ten years, a free session for young people, which nurtures vocal skills such as beatboxing and spoken word of all types. For the last two years they have been working on gig theatre piece Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster – I don’t care what story they adapt next, or whether they take their charming wit & talent and inject it into the phone book. I just want to be there.

Frankenstein Battersea Arts Centre

(Image courtesy of Joyce Nicholls)

From the minute you step into the room, you are greeted warmly by the performers on stage. The friendly, relaxed vibe continues throughout the evening, until you leave with an face that aches from so much smiling and a feeling of elation deep down in your chest.

It’s not all laughs and jokes though. The cast members, who both devised and perform in the show, take the classic Frankenstein story and question what makes a modern-day monster through the lens of such pressures as social media, bullying and your appearance. Every minute is used wisely – no preaching, no sermons – and the group take the audience with them at every point. It is a totally inclusive performance: we are all invited to share the journey, to take photographs or video, and to get up and dance (which we all do gladly when we suddenly find ourselves in a rave). A spontaneous loud shout of “Oh my God!” by an audience member, gobsmacked at the sounds he is hearing, rings very true with the rest of us, and elicits yet another communal belly laugh.

Frankenstein Battersea Arts Centre

(Image courtesy of Joyce Nicholls)

None of that elitist stuff here – this is a show to be experienced fully and to be enjoyed

From inventive beatboxing to singing of heartbreaking beauty, you cannot look away for an instant. The lighting design (Sherry Coenen) is simple but effective, and the sound (Richard Robinson) is astonishing. As for the beatboxing, it is quite extraordinary, hard to properly grasp the fact that there are no instruments or computers. The troupe of six all need a mention as they all bring something special to the mix:

  • Aminita (Aminita Francis) with her angelic voice;
  • Glitch (Nadine Rose Johnson) who has vocals, beatbox skills and a wicked comic touch;
  • Wiz-rd (Tyler Worthington), the youngest in the crew, who plays the ‘genius’ Dr Frankenstein and who is impressive at both beatboxing and lyrical delivery;
  • Native (Nathaniel Forder-Staple), clearly an advanced vocal performer;
  • Germane (Germane Marvel), a lyrical poet and rapper, and
  • the incredible champion beatbox ABH (ABH Beatbox), who makes sounds with his mouth you will probably never have heard before!
Frankenstein Battersea Arts Centre

(Image courtesy of Joyce Nicholls)

You may not think you are a fan of beatbox. You may not be a fan of hip hop. Neither of these things matter. The members of the cast work their styles into tracks that we all know – Show Me Love, I Feel Good or Stir It Up – and then they wow us by adding in new, original songs with a beautiful lyric or a bassline you literally cannot believe. Each style is the opposite of monotonous – it feels special, like you could do anything with it.

Frankenstein Battersea Arts Centre

(Image courtesy of Joyce Nicholls)

Conrad Murray is the mentor and co-director (along with David Cumming) and he sits dead centre of the front row, both visibly and audibly enjoying it along with us. He compères the beatbox battle at the end, with some established beatboxers in the audience, and as director of the Beatbox Academy at BAC it is clearly his passion that inspires these young people and brings out the best in them. When he introduces the younger members of the group and gives them a turn to perform in front of a live audience, it feels like a glimpse of the beginning of one great big, positive adventure for these young kids.

 

 

★★★★★

Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster runs at Battersea Arts Centre until 7 April 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.