After spending time with Eva this morning, it was time for some mother-son bonding with Reuben this afternoon. Which initially seemed to consist of me clutching his pepperoni sandwich for half the length of the Jubilee Line while he read a David Walliams book and ignored me. But then we changed at Waterloo, he ate the sandwich, we did some make up and ribbon shopping and it was a proper day out for the both of us.
Our destination was Battersea Arts Centre, a place I’d last visited for a wedding in 2012 when Eva was a tiny baby. This is how Reuben looked on that visit:
And this is him today:
It’s not just Roo that’s changed tho – the BAC has had a massive overhaul after a devastating fire in 2015. It’s striking as you walk through the corridors how extensive the damage was and the BAC have made the decision to keep the charred walls as they were the morning after the fire, although the ceiling has been completely rebuilt. Again, here’s the hall in 2012:
And I’m far too lame to have got a decent comparison photo from today. I did take a pic of this nice bit of stained glass roof tho:
We had a bit of kerfuffle in the cafe on the way in and failed to get the fries we’d ordered, mostly through my own incompetence in moving tables but not taking our order spoon with us. So apologies to anyone sitting near us that Roo was snacking all the way through – he needs constant fuelling nowadays. He did enjoy an apple juice and a critique of the cafe artwork though:
I wasn’t sure what to expect of this production from the BAC Beatbox Academy. I’d looked on the website for an age recommendation and hadn’t found one, so made an educkated guess that it would be Roo rather than Eva (she gets freaked out by anything slightly sinister). In a lot of ways, I think it was aimed at slightly older kids still – the early teens rather than the under 10s – based on some of the constant and the occasional F-bomb. Roo got a lot out of it, but I think he was slightly struggling to follow the plot as it was more of a loose interpretation of the Frankenstein story rather than an obvious narrative arc.
The show started with a bit of background from the Academy’s director and a demonstration of beatboxing by some of his current pupils. Then the lights dimmed and the six performers took their places sitting on amps, ready to guide us through a 21st century hip-hop version of the classic tale. It was hugely creative, and everything in the show was live using nothing but vocals from the six of them. It’s hard to believe that sometimes but the short piece of improv they did at the end proved their skills. The performers were Aminita (Aminita Francis), Glitch (Nadine Rose Johnson), Wiz-rd (Tyler Worthington), Native (Nathaniel Forder-Staple), ABH (ABH Beatbox) and
Grove (Beth Griffin) – all South Londoners who’d been through the academy and devised the show together.
Each performer had a different area of skill but of course there were overlaps. Aminita and Glitch were particularly prominent and talented vocalists when it came to singing rather than beatboxing, but a version of Pachbel’s canon in 5(?) part harmony showed that every member of the group had significant musical talents as well as beatboxing. Of course, their timing was incredible but their pitch was perfect as well and it surprised me just how musically complex beatboxing can be at times.
The story was split into chapters – each dealt with an episode in the Frankenstein story, from the initial idea of making a monster, through the execution (no pun intended), through to finally the “descent”. In each chapter, they pulled out themes and developed them into stand alone songs, some more directly relevant to the story than others. These young people have a lot to say – covering off social media, body image, violence and bullying – and they were passionate as well as skilled in their delivery. There were some moments of comedy and some moments of confrontation that bordered on uncomfortable – like when they shone an actual spotlight on members of the audience and decried them as “hideous” to drive home a point on beauty standards. It wasn’t always an easy watch but it was challenging and groundbreaking and that’s what theatre should be. As I said before, it wasn’t kids’ theatre as you’d imagine it but 10 pluses would definitely find it inspiring and interesting. Reuben said he enjoyed it, even if he wasn’t always sure what was happening and I told him that’s OK….you don’t always have to understand art to enjoy it.
The performance ended with a bit of audience participation as we learnt a few percussive noises ourselves, then a few rounds of beatbox battles and a bit of improv at the end. It was an impressive way to showcase all the performers’ skills but might have been ten minutes too long for Reuben. It might have been that we were both hungry. But don’t worry, a stop at Pizza Express on the way homre sorted out us both out. And that’s the kind of thing we can do without Eva. Hooray!
So a really interesting show, flawlessly executed and full of hard-hitting messages. It felt very real and authentic and at the same time, slick and professional. It’s on for another few days so please do catch it while you can.
Disclaimer: I recieved free press tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own. For tickets and more information, click here.