It’s Back! ‘Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster’ Blows Minds at Hackney Empire, Now Heads to Canterbury on UK/Ireland Tour

BAC Beatbox Academy performing ‘Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster’ at Hackney Empire on March 11, 2022.

A week last Friday, at Hackney Empire (the legendary Grade II listed theatre in east London), BAC Beatbox Academy, a group of young beatboxers, singers and rappers based in Battersea Arts Centre in south west London brought back to life their show ‘Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster’, the top-rated show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019, which was in the early stages of a British Council-backed world tour — having wowed the Adelaide Fringe in February and March 2020 — when Covid hit, and everything ground to a halt.

The performance at Hackney Empire on March 11 — when the theatre, with support from Hackney Council, put it on as a free performance for 11-18 year olds — marked its return after two years, and it was a raging, resounding success.

Devised over two years (from 2016 to 2018) by six members of the Beatbox Academy (including my son Tyler), under the direction of Beatbox Academy founder Conrad Murray and visiting director David Cumming, and with wonderfully powerful choreography and lighting, the show takes the themes of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, and, eschewing a linear narrative, updates them via reflections on alienation and the dangerous power of social media in a largely impressionistic manner.

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Change the World! A Life in Activism: I Discuss Stonehenge, the Beanfield, Guantánamo and Environmental Protest with Alan Dearling

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House, singing and playing guitar, and challenging the police and bailiffs on the day of the eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford.

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At the start of the year, I was delighted to be asked by an old friend and colleague, Alan Dearling, the publisher of my second book, The Battle of the Beanfield, if I’d like to be interviewed about my history of activism for two publications he’s involved with — the music and counter-culture magazine Gonzo Weekly and International Times, the online revival of the famous counter-cultural magazine of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

In February, after my time- and attention-consuming annual visit to the US to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the anniversary of its opening, I found the time to give Alan’s questions the attention they deserved, and the interview was finally published on the International Times website on March 21, just two days before the coronavirus lockdown began, changing all our lives, possibly forever. Last week, it was also published in Gonzo Weekly (#387/8, pp. 73-84), and I’m pleased to now be making it available to readers here on my website.

In a wide-ranging interview, Alan asked me about my involvement with the British counter-culture in the ’80s and ‘90s, which eventually led to me writing my first two books, Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion, and, as noted above, The Battle of the Beanfield. my work on behalf of the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, which has dominated much of my life for the last 14 years, and my more recent work as a housing activist — with a brief mention also of my photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’, and my music with The Four Fathers.

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You’ve Never Heard Anything Like This Before: BAC Beatbox Academy’s Exhilarating ‘Frankenstein’ Show at Battersea Arts Centre

BAC Beatbox Academy performing their song 'Hideous' as part of their show 'Frankenstein' at Battersea Arts Centre on March 22, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐– Andy’s review

At Battersea Arts Centre in south west London, an extraordinary performance is taking place over the next two weeks, which I urge you to go and see if you’re in London. The show is ‘Frankenstein’ (aka ‘Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster’), and it’s performed by the BAC Beatbox Academy, a collective of beatboxers, singers and rappers who have produced a genuinely unique and completely exhilarating show. As I suggest in the headline of this article, I can guarantee that you have never heard anything like it before.

Perhaps you think beatboxing is a little one-dimensional — men with big lungs making massive, meaty dance beats through a microphone. Impressive, but essentially a novelty, and not something you could spend much time listening to.

If that’s what you think, then ‘Frankenstein’ will blow away those preconceptions, as the BAC Beatbox Academy, which is marking its 10th anniversary this year, is expert at confounding expectations. The group first came to my attention back in 2015, when a friend suggested that my son Tyler, then 15, should audition to take part in it. Tyler had always been a sonically interested child, and had been impressed by seeing the beatboxer Shlomo at WOMAD, which eventually led to him coming up with his own beats and compositions, but it wasn’t until he went to the Beatbox Academy audition that, as he put it, he realised that he had found his people, that there were other people like him. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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