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Frankenstein review at Battersea Arts Centre, London – ‘a brilliant beatbox reimagining’

The cast of Frankenstein at Battersea Arts Centre, London. Photo: Joyce Nicholls
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It starts with a breath, a beat and a vein pulsing in the neck. And then the ensemble for BAC Beatbox Academy’s Frankenstein take the well-worn pages of Mary Shelley’s gothic tale and scatter them through today’s streets to exhilarating effect.

Playing as part of Battersea Arts Centre’s Reclaiming the Classics season, this show has been two years in the devising and opens in the 10th-anniversary year of the Beatbox Academy, which trains people in the art of making vocal percussive sounds.

Shelley’s story is treated as the ghost in the machine, which, here, is a mic’d up voice-box booming through a speaker. Frankenstein (Wiz-rd) is a ‘genius’ – a shivery and silvery cautionary refrain – and the Monster is an outcast.

Using these bare ligaments, the company pop and slide through funny, jittery jabs at our over-stimulated digital age, cruel and soulfully sad numbers about the bullying, endless pressure of having to look and act a certain way and gorgeously sung laments for lives forced off the tracks.

Co-directors Conrad Murray and David Cumming deftly handle these switches in tone. There are traces of Cumming’s other life as one of horror-comedy troupe Kill the Beast in the frenetically funny explosions of mad scientist laughter. The show takes a well-earned swagger through ideas.

From the kinetically hilarious vice UK beatbox champion ABH, to Aminita – whose voice pulls your heart into your mouth – everyone gets to show what they can do.

This is an old story made electrically alive. Let it take your breath away.

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Brilliant, exhilarating beatbox re-imagining of Mary Shelley's gothic novel