Online at YouTube
It feels like online theatre can be divided into two types right now; shows recorded live when we were all allowed to actually sit in a venue together, and shows being made now under the theatre banner but really designed for online consumption. Beats & Elements’ 2015 offering of No Milk for the Foxes falls squarely into the first category, even to the point where the heads of audience members are visible across the bottom of the screen. It’s probably safe to assume this was never really filmed to be shared online, but rather for their own use, to develop the show further.
The basic set up is simple. Marx and Spaxx (Paul Cree and Conrad Murray) are two security guards working the night shift, bored and discussing their dreams, whilst lamenting the state of things today when you are working class in a Tory-run Britain. Marx aspires to just be able to provide for his girlfriend, maybe even make a little more money so he can afford to take her on holiday. Spaxx on the other hand has a wilder ambition of saving up enough to gamble it all on the bingo. Two different dreams, but both restricted by the limitations of their zero-hour contracts and a lack of future prospects.
What we witness is conversations between the two throughout their shift; from Marx’s obsession with that hole in the fence and if he will be getting extra work, to Spaxx’s talk of drink with the lads and how he doesn’t plan to stay another night in the job. It’s all very mundane, but that’s the point: this is what life can be like working night shifts as well as being on zero-hour contracts, two concepts that are very real for many from working class backgrounds. But don’t mistake mundane for dull, the writing and delivery on offer means there is plenty of good humour and thoughtful reflection to drive this hour long piece.
Better yet, scenes are separated with live beatboxing from the duo. And, as you’d expect if you know Beats & Elements, these moments allow the pair to really display their talents, raising it to a wonderful new level in doing so. The sound that just these two can make is simply breathtaking at times. No matter how often I experience it, I’m sure I will still be amazed anew on each occasion.
It’s hard to pick fault considering the show was never recorded for such public broadcasting, and for the most part the simple one static camera works fine; you soon manage to filter out those tops of heads. My only complaint would be, why occasionally edit in a second camera angle with completely different colouration? It’s a small point but one that did begin to frustrate at times.
But let’s not worry too much about such minor flaws. Instead let’s appreciate the availability of drama that focuses on a section of society that is not always well represented in theatre. Marx’s speech on applying for jobs – how he was asked to explain why he wanted to work for Tie Rack when all he really wanted was a job, any job – so clearly defines the difficulties facing many. As does the closing musical interlude that seems to sum up the Britain of today, a sorry lament on the lack of understanding from the ruling classes to the rest of society: “They know the value of nothing but they know what the cost is” seems a perfect line to end things on.
Written by: Beats & Elements
Directed by: Conrad Murray
Produced by: Camden People Theatre and Lara Taylor
Originally performed and filmed at: Camden People Theatre