As a heavy metal fan, I must admit that watching beatboxing is way out of my comfort zone. But as a theatre blogger, how could I resist the opportunity to see one of my favourite books, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, given such a radical interpretation? This was a show I couldn’t miss.
Stupidly, I booked tickets for the wrong night. I’m kicking myself for buying tickets for the final performance of Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster at Contact Theatre, because this is a show that I would gladly watch over and over again. It honestly blew my mind and gave me a newfound admiration and appreciation for beatboxing.
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster is devised and performed by BAC Beatbox Academy, and is currently touring the UK. Battersea Arts Centre’s Beatbox Academy offers beatboxing classes to people of all ages, nurturing talent within the community and transforming lives.
Under the direction of Conrad Murray and David Cumming, six beatboxers perform this superb, contemporary spin on a classic story. The iconic elements are there, but modern references are added into the mix. For example, when Dr Frankenstein is creating his monster, inspiration is taken from popular songs. An ingenious beatbox version of Prodigy’s Firestarter represents the brain, and 90s club classic You Got The Love signifies the heart in this innovative shopping list of body parts.
The modern world is omnipresent throughout the show, as Frankenstein’s monster is born in today’s world. They experience a sensory overload as they become overwhelmed by the life we inhabit in the 21st Century. From social media, global warming, and political doom, we are presented with a plethora of modern issues which cause social anxiety, with our existence seemingly only validated by ‘likes’ and retweets.
Later, as the monster struggles with their physical appearance, the toxicity of the beauty industry’s advertising and marketing is addressed. In a world obsessed with promoting external beauty and uniformity over finding inner beauty and showing individuality, existence can be hard for those who don’t fit the mould.
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster is performed entirely through a beatboxing soundscape. There’s no backing digital soundtrack or sound effects. It’s genuinely hard to believe that everything that you’re hearing is actually created by vocal chords. From passing cars, birdsong, and raindrops hitting a pond, the world is convincingly brought to life by the human voice alone. I found it to be a mind-blowing experience, and am in complete awe of what these phenomenally talented performers can do.
Sherry Coenen‘s excellent lighting design also deserves a mention. The six performers are often backlit, casting shadows which creep towards the audience, creating arresting imagery that matches the auditory brilliance of the show.
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster certainly delivers its value for money, because it’s also partly a gig. Before the theatrical adaptation of Shelly’s novel, there are a dozen support artists sourced from the local community. Many of them are completely new to performing spoken word and beatboxing. There’s also a good deal of audience participation, teaching you the basic beats used when beatboxing.
After the Frankenkenstein part of the show, the audience gets to marvel at the insane skills of the six performers on stage, as we witness beatbox battles between Aminita, Glitch, Wiz-rd, Native, Aziza, and the UK Beatbox Champion, ABH.
The theatre industry spends millions trying to entice young new audiences to watch their shows by offering discounted tickets. But here, Contact and BAC Beatbox Academy have shown that if you programme inventive, exciting work, young people will watch it.