Tag Archives: Fionn Whitehead

Addictive Beat

Addictive Beat


Dilston Gallery

ADDICTIVE BEAT at the Dilston Gallery



Addictive Beat

“Whitehead and Ricketts give startlingly natural performances throughout this part gig, part theatre, immersive presentation”


It is often heard that “music is a drug”. The response is often sceptical. Nevertheless, neurologists have discovered for some time now that the human response to music involves dopamine, the same chemical in the brain that is associated with the intense pleasure people get from more tangible rewards such as addictive drugs. This has existed for thousands of years, across cultures around the world. We have obviously evolved to enjoy music. Possibly even need it.

‘Boundless Theatre’ have taken this theory to the extreme for their ninety-minute play, “Addictive Beat”, in which the two protagonists – Alex and Robbi – create a dangerous, narcotically powerful piece of music. With echoes of Frankenstein’s Monster, the effects escape the control of the creators, leaving them no choice but to destroy their own creation.

It begins more innocently, however. Alex (Fionn Whitehead) and Robbi (Boadicea Ricketts) are best friends. They share a love of music but are wired differently, so sparks fly when their exposed impulses get too close to each other. A long drawn-out scene, played out to the rhythms of electronic dance music, explains these differences. The upshot is that neither has managed to stay true to their creative impulses. Whitehead and Ricketts give startlingly natural performances throughout this part gig, part theatre, immersive presentation. Their boundless energy draws us in. We thought we were in for a rave, but the experience is much more subtle and gratifying.

Rob Drummer’s stylish and stylised direction highlights the polarisation between Robbi’s singer/songwriter, soulful sentiments, and DJ Alex’s formulaic but tortured yearning to shun commercialism for the elusive ‘secret chord’. The rift ultimately leads to reconciliation and then collaboration. Fusing their respective skills, the binaural beast is born. As the two gyrate chaotically together in an almost sexual dance, the eponymous ‘addictive beat’ is the offspring. Dawn King’s script mixes metaphor with sharp realism, but the message becomes a bit muddled. It is plain that the healing powers of music are being celebrated, but it is difficult to reconcile that with the latent destructive powers that King is hinting at.

International Bass DJ, Anikdote, provides the musical score; perfectly encapsulating the mood of the piece. Although it could be said that the play is the thing that encapsulates the music. Whitehead and Ricketts seem to have an innate affinity to the material that gives real credence to the highs and lows of their character arcs. And when Robbi is allowed to shine (sadly not frequently enough) as the singer she really aspires to be, we can savour the beauty of Ricketts’ vocals.

Nobody needs science to explain why music has become such an integral part of humanity, but neurologists have put a lot of time and energy into trying to prove the evolutionary necessity of music in our lives. “Addictive Beat” uses analogy to show briefly the darker side of this necessity. It borders on alarmist. We don’t quite buy it, but it does make you think. And ultimately the show’s positivity and passion save the day in the closing moments of its uplifting finale.



Reviewed on 23rd September 2022

by Dawn King

Photography by Harry Elletson




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The Picture of Dorian Gray


Online via www.pictureofdoriangray.com

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Online via www.pictureofdoriangray.com

Reviewed – 12th March 2021



“Set in a time of lockdown it is uncomfortably portentous, and it triggers the frightening thought that society might be stuck there”


When Oscar Wilde unleashed “The Picture of Dorian Gray” onto the world back in 1890, the Irish Times said it was ‘published to some scandal’ and the Daily Chronicle stated that it would ‘taint every young mind that comes in contact with it’. It is debatable whether Wilde courted such a reception, and it is difficult to imagine a similarly outraged reaction were it to be unveiled in today’s climate; but I’m sure he would have been proud of this modernised re-telling of the story. Not so much for the narrative itself but for the way it emulates the original’s intention to challenge the social mores of society. This production couldn’t be more up to date if it tried, as it cleverly tackles the pressures brought on by the growing obsession with our image. Our online image. The dusty attic with its decaying framed portrait has been replaced with the perfect pixels of selfies, and the Faustian pact for the flawless filter.

Written by Henry Filloux-Bennett and directed by Tamara Harvey it is a co-production between the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre, The New Wolsey Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Theatr Clwyd: the team that brought us the equally ground-breaking “What A Carve Up!” last October. It treads a similar path, too, by wandering into the realms of docudrama – but with its finger right on the pulse. The story starts at a fund-raising event to support theatres during the pandemic; organised by Lady Narborough, brilliantly portrayed by Joanna Lumley. It is also Dorian’s twenty-first birthday party: the date is July 4th, 2020, the day when the first lockdown ended. Amongst the guests were four friends and we are tantalisingly informed that “within eight months, three of the four friends were dead”.

Lumley is being interviewed, via zoom, by Stephen Fry who is piecing together the series of events in retrospect. Lumley defensively primes Fry with the proviso that “if people are going to see this, I don’t want any come back”; an echo of Wilde’s contemporaries who began to disassociate themselves from him to avoid the fallout from the novel. What follows are echoes of the novel itself, resounding quite clearly and harmoniously within a wider polemic against the dark side of social media.

Fionn Whitehead is Dorian Gray, who makes a deal for his social star never to fade. For his perfect self that he broadcasts to the world to always remain. We all know the true, horrific cost of this will be unavoidably met, but it is the build-up to this that is as fascinating and exciting as the climax. Viewers who know nothing about the original story will be intrigued. Wilde aficionados will relish the anachronisms and twists. Most of the epigrams are there but they are given new and heightened meaning in Filloux-Bennett’s ingenious script. We also see the characters in a fresh light, and it is here that quite a few liberties are taken. As a result, though, the depth of some of the characters becomes a touch diluted. Many of Lord Henry (Harry) Wotton’s lines are given to Basil Hallward, the creator of the portrait, and vice versa. Whilst this serves to demonise Russell Tovey’s Basil to great effect, it relegates Harry Wotton’s role to more of a hanger-on than being instrumental in Dorian’s corruption. Alfred Enoch, however, gives a thoroughly nuanced performance that swings from devil-may-care bravado to owner of a bruised heart in a brush stroke.

The standout is Emma McDonald’s Sibyl Vane. Not so much a victim of Dorian’s murderous rejection, she instead suffers at the hands of internet trolls. McDonald has the star quality to allow us to believe fully in Sibyl’s star struck, vulnerability. We share her shock at the discovery of the potentially fatal power of social media networks; an unregulated battlefield of harassment and bullying. It is powerful viewing.

This production plants a classic Victorian tale into a modern world of fake news, conspiracy theories and obsession with how others see us. Set in a time of lockdown it is uncomfortably portentous, and it triggers the frightening thought that society might be stuck there. Dorian’s descent into corruption and unravelling mental health remains unwitnessed by the outside world. On screen, through the filter he has sold his soul for, he remains beautiful. But desperately alone.

Whilst never feeling like one, this is a state of the nation, public service broadcast, dressed up as a thought-provoking piece of digital theatre. If Wilde were around today it is exactly the sort of thing he would be exploring.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Online via www.pictureofdoriangray.com until 31st March


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