It’s not every day you get to see a beatboxed production of a major work of literature, but Beatbox Academy’s production of Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster is exactly that. Taking the well-known story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the cast takes original music and combines it with spoken word to make a production of Frankenstein unlike any of its predecessors. The show reimagines Shelley’s original novel and adapts it for the present day, in order to make the audience question: what makes a monster?
Garnering five-star reviews all around, it is clear the play is making waves in the world of theatre.
Six performers, six microphones, and one story to tell, Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster is a beatboxed production of Frankenstein and is boldly reimagining what theatre should look like. Garnering five-star reviews all around, it is clear the play is making waves in the world of theatre.
However, Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster, provides more than just entertainment, as it hopes to send one key message to the audience. Speaking to Aminita, a member of the cast, she states how “each [member of the cast] individually for different reasons, has felt like we’ve been called monsters in our lives”. She explains, “We thought you know what, this story is the right story to tell because we just relate to the situation that’s going on”. I feel like almost everyone has had a moment where they have felt like they have been made out to be the monster in a situation, or they have made a choice that has then led them to be the monster in a situation.”
And while Frankenstein’s creation is often misrepresented as a monster, perhaps all it was a victim of its situation, brought to life in a careless and unorthodox science experiment. Frankenstein’s creature was then banished from society and ignored by its creator, Dr Frankenstein. The creature is given no chance to integrate itself or be anything other than what Dr Frankenstein referred to him as – a monster.
You’ve got to watch what you do because you can create a monster out of anything.
– Conrad Murray
But the Beatbox Academy puts a different spin on the story, asking viewers to consider the responsibility of their actions. Drawing on Frankenstein’s original story, it is clear that “monsters are created from the individual, and you’ve got to watch what you do because you can create a monster out of anything,” as explained by co-director Conrad Murray.
With such a unique take on a classic tale, the question that begs to be asked is: who is this production for? “I think this show is actually for everyone,” notes Aminita. “Because of those themes that we’re exploring in the show, I feel like everyone has an image they can relate to. We have so many people come through the door, you know, young and old, rich or whatever sexuality, and we’ve had the same response from them – that this is amazing.”
And in a time when the arts are constantly being devalued by the government, anything that brings new audiences to the theatre is invaluable. Both Conrad and Aminita feel strongly about this: “It’s so essential to see different voices in a space where loads of different voices can be heard. You know, we don’t want to be in a culture where people aren’t expressing themselves and people who feel that they can’t express themselves aren’t seeing themselves on stages, whether that’s on TV or in theatre or on the radio or in a painting.”
Like Aminita, Conrad also believes strongly in the importance of the arts: “I feel like art is our human culture. Because we share the sublime, we connect with the spiritual, sometimes not through words. Also, it’s a way that some people find themselves.” Aminita also goes on to state: “I work with a lot of young people in youth clubs and local community centres, where I can see young people coming out of their shell not because they want to be a singer per se, but because they feel like they’ve got some confidence that their own ideas have value. And when you create, your own ideas will be created.”
Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster leaves behind all preconceived stereotypes one may have about theatre .
Theatre is unfortunately also seen as a pastime which is exclusive to the middle-and-upper class, as well as the older demographic, but why should it be? Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster leaves behind all preconceived stereotypes one may have about theatre. “I think the form and the people that are on stage present an alternative story which is threatening to the establishment [of theatre],” explains Conrad. The passion in his voice is clear. “Culture has to keep moving. You can be the first person in your family to go to a show, and you can have a wonderful time.” And he’s right: Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster boldly threatens the pre-established conceptions of what theatre should look like.
Even if the original tale Frankenstein is inaccessible today, it remains to be an incredibly poignant and relevant tale. The novel explores themes such as the development of science, the rights of women, and social exclusion, all of which are still relevant today – especially for younger audiences.
“Mary Shelley was so young when she wrote [Frankenstein]. And with her being a teenager when she created this story, we were teens when we were creating our new stories, we thought “oh, there’s a synergy there,” and so realising that you know when she was doing her thing, it was kind of against the status quo for women to be right. But we need to be telling stories and using our voices,” explains Aminita.
Like Frankenstein’s creature, the show is very much alive.
Another thing that makes this show special? The fact that, like Frankenstein’s creature, the show is very much alive. Every production of the show is different. “It’s the nature of Frankenstein, that it’s just so alive and inspired by who’s in it and who’s on stage at night, and new riffs and new licks come every time you perform it.” With a smile on her face, Aminita elaborates on this: “It’s insane how many parallels I can draw between Frankenstein the novel and the nature of this piece: the way it’s created and, and how it is breathing and alive every time we perform it.
The play also does things that most other plays do not, such as being able to walk around during the performance, leave and then come back, and even interact with the actors.
The production of Frankenstein: How To Make a Monster is a breath of fresh air in an often elitist and exclusionist industry. Paired with positive messages and unmistakable talent, the play is not only boldly paving the way for a new generation of theatregoers, but also redefining what theatre should look like.