Battersea Arts Centre, London – until 29 March 2019
Guest reviewer: Gregory Forest
Frankenstein is a tour de force. A choral, beatboxing, rap-infused version of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Battersea Arts Centre’s ‘live concept album’ manages to entertain and analyse our world in equal measure.
Every corner is clever. Dr Frankenstein’s dangerous self-confidence becomes a query of rap and Instagram: when does confidence become cockiness? The ‘monster’ taking its first breath becomes the stylistic inhales and exhales of beatboxing. Learning how to speak becomes a young collective finding their respective voices. Being harassed by society becomes a generation hooked on social media and ignored by political powers. And a generation feeling powerless, like Frankenstein’s monster, will go to extreme lengths to be heard. The grandest moment of violence in the piece is the snap of a microphone. The worst thing we can do to these artists is to silence them.
GLITCH in particular holds the show together, taking pops at her peers, body image, and basically half the audience with a hilarious section of rapid fire piss-taking. ABH produces noises that seem physically impossible: digital, instrumental, otherworldly. At one point he holds the microphone to his neck and the auditorium feels like its plunged underwater. At another, he zips the microphone past his lips and it feels like a VHS tape dissolving.
The praise keeps coming. GROVE’s vocals are haunting, and WIZ-RD’s social media refrain – ‘what? what? what!’ – introduces a heart-racing speed to timely lyrics. The whole ensemble moves together like a single body, stitched together and twitching perfectly. This is a group of artists with distinct voices and a collective scream.
Frankenstein is also a testament to Battersea Arts Centre’s community engagement and the Beatbox Academy, which has been running for ten years for anyone under 30 who wants to give their voicebox a workout. It confidently shows that community work does not have to sit in some inferior category, relegated to shorter runs or smaller spaces. These artists fill the newly re-opened Grand Hall with more urgency and gothic grandeur than Mary Shelley could shake a stick at.
Clean your ears out and go see it.