BAC Beatbox Academy’s ‘Frankenstein: How to make a Monster’ returns to the Battersea Arts Centre for a 3-week run, following their win of an Off-West End award last year. Billed as a retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic this production is something of a misnomer: it draws on the themes of the well-known novel, with ideas about the dangers of technology and society’s reaction to what is ‘abnormal’. However, the associations are loose and it is clearly more a reaction to a shifting society. Elements of Frankenstein are a criticism of modern culture, calling out our obsession with phones and with social media as well as how easy it has become for the masses to pounce on those with bodies considered ‘ugly’. At the same time, it is also a product of this very same culture: all performances are ‘relaxed’ and you are encouraged to take photos and videos throughout. Its hard to tell if this bitter irony is intentional.
The BAC’s Grand Hall is the ideal venue for this production, with its sparse brick walls and the open emptiness of its stage. The set is simple, but incredibly effective, consisting only of bare lights hanging above the space occupied by the performers and large black speakers. The performers’ outfits mirror the minimalism of the stage and all of them are dressed in simple grey hoodies and black jeans. The performers themselves, Aminita, Glitch, WIZ-RD, Native, ABH and Grove, are clearly massively talented, and its no surprise they rank amongst the UK’s best in beatboxing. The real stand outs are ABH and Aminita. Aminita’s unique singing voice adds a special quality to their performances that couldn’t be achieved without her. ABH is arguably the most skilled member of the group, always drawing loud cheers from the audience with his solos.
Its hard to know what to make of this production. Its undeniably fun: even the bits of cheesy audience interaction scattered throughout the performance. However, the piece lacks any narrative structure and the ties to the themes of ‘Frankenstein’ are too loose to be tangible. If anything, this production is a showcase of BAC Beatbox Academy’s talent, or of what can be achieved through beatbox as an artform. Frankenstein, though, it is not.