Pros: A tremendous display of beat-boxing skill and storytelling.
Cons: Not for those adverse to a little audience participation.
This show is an interesting and refreshing one. Grace Savage is a two-time UK beat-boxing champion and she is also very likeable. Her one-woman show is a mix of comedy, autobiographical descriptions of her awkward teenage years, and displays of absolutely incredible beat-boxing. Savage is an instrument, and it’s a wonderful to see how she brings beats and music to life in front of the audience. She’s worth seeing for the beat-boxing skill alone, but the rest of the show is equally impressive.
We meet Savage, in the guise of her mother, in a simple but neat set: there’s a carnival or circus style to the décor, and Savage manages to make a cloth backdrop and an armchair flit back and forth between stage, caravan, and any other setting required.
This is a great show. It’s funny, educational, lively, and it is incredible to see what Savage is capable of. She is a shining example of both exceptional talent and hard work. But don’t be fooled – the show is not just sunshine and rainbows. Savage brings to life hard-hitting episodes of her past – there’s a train ride from hell that the audience experiences just by listening, and when she covers the misogynistic YouTube comments she receives against a soundtrack of her beat-boxing and rapping to extremely sexist songs from pop-culture, my jaw was on the floor. This was both because of how good she is at mixing and blending pop culture tunes (and rapping) but also because she makes one hell of a statement while doing it.
It’s a great show for teenagers; there’s lots of swearing and sexual language, but I’d be surprised if they were not words said teenagers were already using daily. The the teens in the audience were all listening and responding to everything she said. Much of her show is to do with the angst teens feel at different stages in their lives and how Savage has come out on top, a good message for them
The only – only – area where the show drops the ball a bit is that, as mentioned, Savage makes a moving and powerful statement about sexism (and if we’re honest, sexual harassment) in her beat-boxing career, but then, in a section where she asks for audience participation, she divides the audience by men and women and asks each to make a sound (which cleverly comes up as a storytelling tool later in the play.) The men are asked to celebrate their team scoring a goal in a football match. The women are asked to scream as if they just saw a spider. Now, I’m a woman nearing 30 and I have never screamed at a spider. I do, however, celebrate goals every weekend in football matches, so this aspect of the show disappointed me. While I see how the sounds made for a strong backing track for a crucial part of the program, I wasn’t crazy about how a show which celebrates adversity over gender stereotyping still slid in some gender stereotyping of its own.
That’s not to take away from how good this show is. Grace Savage is a tremendous storyteller and musician, and she has complete and utter control over the audience whilst she dances us through her life and observations. There’s lots of interesting pop-culture crossovers, and she even teaches her audience how to do some basic beat-boxing noises. It’s not a show for people who hate participating, but Savage is so charming there isn’t a single person in the audience who isn’t signing along to her tune.
She’s spellbinding, and when the evening came to a close, I was disappointed it was over.
Devised by: The Paper Birds and Grace Savage
Director: Jemma Mc Donnell
Producer: Bonnie Mitchell
Booking Until: This was a one-off performance
Box Office: 020 7525 2931
Booking Link: http://canadawaterculturespace.org.uk/