Contact Theatre beatboxes Frankenstein back to life
By Jay Darcy
Contact Theatre and Frankenstein have a few things in common. Artistically, they’re both exceptional – the creme-de-la-creme of their spheres. Aesthetically, they’re both… interesting. Oh, and like Frankenstein’s Monster, Contact was underground for awhile, before being brought back to life, now bigger and better than ever before. The similarities stop there. To be honest, I don’t really know where I was going with this metaphor, and I don’t know why I’m still typing. Let’s stop this, shall we?
Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster is a critically acclaimed, gig-theatre production by Battersea Arts Centre and BAC Beatbox Academy, inspired by the original monstrous tale of power and persecution. Six performers with six microphones take apart Mary Shelley’s original and reimagine a world of modern monsters. Using their mouths to make every sound, six talented young artists challenge how today’s society creates its own monsters.
A gripping, one-of-a-kind, theatre-beatbox hybrid, Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster is a powerful and poetic show that pushes the power of the human voice to it’s expressive, musical and rhythmic limits. 200 years after 18-year-old Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’, six young performers with six microphones take apart the original and reimagine a world of modern monsters – from our over-stimulated digital age to the pressures to conform – while taking musical inspirations from Pachelbel to The Prodigy.
The production is co-created by the wider BAC Beatbox Academy, co-directors Conrad Murray (‘High Rise eState of Mind’) and David Cumming (‘Operation Mincemeat’), and BAC. This means it has been co-authored by cast members at every stage, who also shape all aspects of presenting the show in its different incarnations.
The company continue to work with young talent everywhere they go. Each live show of ‘Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster’ opens with a curtain-raiser – a short performance created through workshops with local young people – and ends with a beatboxing battle. At Contact, the company will work with young people from Greater Manchester to deliver these workshops across the city.
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster is the first professional production from the BAC Beatbox Academy, whose members have developed and adapted the production over the years. Starting with a small-scale Scratch performance at BAC where they encouraged feedback from the audience, the company continued to build on their success. They returned with sold-out runs at BAC, winning Off West End and Total Theatre Awards, embarked on their first national tour, presented the highest-rated show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019, received rave reviews at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and released their first film which they co-created and shot during the lockdown in 2020.
BAC Beatbox Academy is BAC’s home-grown young performance collective for local artists aged 11-29 years. Since BAC created the Academy in 2008, it has pro-actively engaged harder to reach groups in areas of significant deprivation; locally, throughout the UK and internationally. Through the Academy programme of nurturing rising talent and pushing the boundaries of sound and music, the casts of Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster have developed; from a collective of local participants into highly-accomplished performers and music leaders.
In their five-star review, The Guardian refers to Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster has “A rip-it-to-pieces-and-remake-it production that galvanises the heart of Mary Shelley’s exclamatory Gothic” – and The Guardian never lies.
But whether you read The Guardian, or, God forbid, The Daily Mail – everybody is united in thinking that this show is inventive, intelligent, and incredible. It’s one of the few things we can all agree on!
Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster plays at Contact Theatre from 10th until 14th May.