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 The TheatreguideLondon Review

Beats
Soho Theatre Autumn 2013

The most intriguing things in British theatre often come from the least expected places. This one hails from a small Scottish town at a particular cultural moment in 1994 when public gatherings around amplified music featuring ‘a succession of repetitive beats’ became outlawed by a Criminal Justice Act.

At first glance, the story focuses on Johnno McCreadie, a 15-year old ‘disappointed with the world, and terrified of his own place in it’, whose first experience of an illegal rave leaves him with the police-inflicted bruises but awakened to the ultimate freedom of his imagination. At the heart of it, however, this is a piece of poetic activism, concerned with the potential of any younger generation to change the world they happen to have inherited from their parents.

Having garnered numerous accolades and charmed the Edinburgh Fringe audiences for the last two years, Kieran Hurley’s inventive fusion of storytelling and techno is poised for a national tour, following its current run at London’s Soho Theatre. 

It is a simple piece in terms of stagecraft – Hurley is seated at a desk lit by a lamp at one end of the stage, while Hushpuppy DJ live-mixes a soundtrack at the other end. They are both illuminated by club lights and a backdrop of the 1990s-style psychedelic visuals. 

One might wonder whether, with such an emphasis on sound, this needs to be a theatre rather than a radio piece. However, both in terms of its style and content Hurley’s creation seems to offer a different take on the notion of ‘immersive theatre’. 

At the outset, his script invites us to ‘fill in the gaps’ in the story that is about to unfold before us. But the production creates a physical gap too, positioning the audience at the point of being moved to action. The fact that you are denied the actual possibility of taking to the dancefloor might just mean you leave the show energized to take on the world. 

An opportunity not to be missed, at the Soho or when it gets to your local venue.

Duska Radosavljevic

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Review -  Beats - Soho Theatre 2013

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