Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster – Gate Theatre – Review
Gate Theatre Presents a Battersea Arts Centre and Beatbox Academy Production
Gate Theatre until April 30th. Midsummer Festival in Cork on June 17/18
Photos by Joyce Nicholls
The BAC Beatbox Academy is a youth group that takes people from ages 11 to 29 “to jam together, (and) improve their beatbox and vocal skills”. The group creates new music, with songs based on the human voice without any musical instruments. The percussion and bass lines are created by beatboxing. These are layered with vocal harmonies and rap to create a vibrant and diverse sound. This production features six graduates of the Academy and showcases their lyrical and vocal dexterity!
The production is not a strict retelling of the familiar story of Frankenstein, instead, it uses the framework of the novel to link together a series of songs. The production is essentially a concert with brief interludes telling the story of the creation of the monster. Some of the songs mirror elements of the story whereas others bear little connection at all.
The staging is simple. At the start of the production, there are six amps on stage and six microphones. The stage is dark other than for a number of exposed light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The members of our band are dressed in similar grey hoodies. The performers themselves reflect the diversity of the area they come from but they’re all linked by their love of performance and music.
The production was first staged in 2018 in the Battersea Arts Centre and received a series of rave reviews. It is visiting the Gate Theatre for 15 performances only and will appear at the Midsummer Festival in Cork in June.
The production opens with the usual announcements from the Gate staff about the emergency exits and also turning off your mobile phone. That is until the Artistic Director of the Beatbox Academy, Conrad Murray, arrives on stage to say that the usual rules don’t apply! This is a relaxed performance and you can take photos or record segments of the show if you so wish. The only request is that you don’t use flash photography and even that doesn’t seem to be rigorously enforced! It’s a break from the norm for the theatre and it’s certainly nice to see something different on a stage often associated with the classics. Conrad introduces the audience to the basics of beatboxing and even indulges in a little call and response, a standard of any hip hop gig. He then welcomes his crew on stage for the performance to start in earnest.
While these performers started in the aforementioned youth group, there is no lack of professionalism in the production. They are a tight group and they create an impressive sound! The songs are based on a variety of themes such as body image, social media and the addiction to mobile phones. At times it is hard to believe that all the sounds are being created live on stage, such is the complexity of the arrangements. The production should act as a bridge between diverse worlds, introducing an older generation to hip hop and proving to the younger generation that the theatre can be an exciting place! Hopefully, it will open a few minds and help the audience appreciate that art is not confined to the usual venues or styles!
AMINITA (Aminita Francis)
GLITCH (Nadine Rose Johnson)
WIZ-RD (Tyler Worthington)
ABH (Alex Hackett)
NATIVE (Nathaniel Forder-Staple)
AZIZA (Aziza Amira Brown)