Only last week I was writing “how adults can instil a sense of adventure into children”. Those words rung even more true tonight as a packed audience watched in pure delight this group of youths perform; a group so clearly inspired by people such as Conrad Murray, one of the men behind BAC Beatbox Academy, the makers and performers of Frankenstein. Conrad acted like the proud father as he introduced not just the show but other members of the academy, members of all shape, sizes, ages, ethnicity and no doubt social backgrounds.
I’m an absolute sucker for anything that demonstrates kids from non-privileged backgrounds can be more than knife welding troublemakers, whatever certain elements of the media tell us. And for that reason alone people should go along to support this show. But let’s not be all sentimental just because it’s a youth project, that would be doing a disservice to both the cast and crew as well as our readers. Because it doesn’t need sentiment. Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster is, quite simply, bloody brilliant, and that is the big reason you should go and see it.
Beatboxing, for those who aren’t sure, is the act of imitating sound with the voice, which is what these six performers do. Except that is to simplify it way too much, because the noise they make is the equivalent of a live gig. It’s a story told through spoken word, song and no end of sound effects that make up a cacophony of sound. In fact it’s hard not to look around for the band at times as surely it can’t all be coming from just six performers. Add in some effective lighting to create shadows and darkness, stir in some nifty choreography and it’s adding up to a show quite unlike anything else I’ve ever had the privilege to witness. It may not meet any traditional definition of theatre, in places it is much more a gig. After all, it’s not often in theatre you’re encouraged to take photos or stand during the performance.
Much like the uniqueness of the performance, the story has its own arc clearly lead by the youthful cast. The story is told in chapters, the monster slowly emerging into the world, giving the cast ample opportunity to demonstrate their various vocal skills; the heart beating as the monster comes to life is a serious hold your breath moment. And much like Shelley’s monster is now viewed as being misunderstood by the world, almost betrayed by its maker, here it is the same, except that the monster is made up of the various parts of the youths. A perfect metaphor for how we all too often demonise and present the country’s youth as monsters. But the metaphors don’t end there, as they soon target social media, how an idea of beauty can alienate so many others. Without doubt our monster would be body shamed if it were on instagram today. It’s a clever update on a classic story, and just adds to the wonder of the evening.
In a time when knife crime is big news, when the media label half of our youth as yobs, when the government throws money aimlessly at schemes to solve it, seeing Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster makes you see what can be done with a bunch of kids, a little imagination and the support of a place like BAC. But as I say, don’t go because it’s a good cause, go because you will have an incredible evening witnessing this
Based on story by: Mary Shelley
Directed by: Conrad Murray & David Cumming
Produced by: Rosie Scudder
Box office: 020 7223 2223
Booking link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/44921/whats_on/whats_on/shows/frankenstein
Booking until: 29 March 2019