Tag Archives: Jonathan Evans

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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Rehab the Musical

Rehab the Musical

★★★★★

Playground Theatre

REHAB THE MUSICAL at the Playground Theatre

★★★★★

 

Rehab the Musical

“the entertainment factor is what drives this show with its irresistible force”

 

Kid Pop (Jonny Labey) is a rock star; top of the game and at the height of fame. He has the whole world in his hands, yet he is in the firm clutches of his addiction to cocaine and alcohol. Inevitably he is up against an unsympathetic judge after the tabloids splash his drug habit on the front pages. Expecting a custodial sentence, he is instead sent into rehab for sixty days. Kid Pop cockily accepts this as a free holiday rather than the journey into the wilderness we follow him on. He is, of course, in denial. In control. The drugs are in control – but so is his pr man, Malcolm Stone (Keith Allen) whose hold over him proves to be almost as fatal as the narcotics. Labey and Allen are portraying vivid caricatures here, but the beauty of their performances lightens them into warm shades of humanity. A skill shared by the entire cast.

The story, to some degree, stems from songwriter Grant Black’s and Britpop poet Murray Lachlan’s personal battles with addiction and mental health. But far from preaching they have alchemised their experiences, along with writer Elliot Davis, into a shining gem of musical theatre. It has just the right balance of humour and pathos, shallowness and depth to appeal to the masses. Yes, the journey is a touch predictable, and the twists in the road clearly signposted, but the entertainment factor is what drives this show with its irresistible force.

Labey is enjoying every moment, barely able to contain his delight even in the darker moments. He has sixty days to recover in ‘The Glade’; the rehabilitation centre populated with his fellow addicts. Depicted as misfits they resemble everyman – perhaps a symbol of the ubiquity of addiction. The velvet voiced Phil Sealey is poignantly magnificent as over-eater Phil while Annabel Giles hilariously recounts the past shenanigans of sex-addict Jane Killy (numerous name-drops of real-life celebrities will surely have lawyers working overtime!). ‘The Glade’ even houses a tanning addict. “Yes – it’s a thing” deadpans John Barr in a glorious turn as Barry Bronze, forever showing polaroids of his orange skin from past holidays.

While Kid Pop counts his days in rehab, Malcolm Stone desperately and ruthlessly tries to keep his protégé in the headlines and his name alive (if not the client). Obsessive, corrupt and foul, Allen amazingly renders him likeable. Jodie Steele gives a star turn as sidekick Beth Boscombe, hard as steel (no pun intended) but with a heart, and voice, of gold. The show stealer, though, is Gloria Onitiri as Lucy Blake, sent into ‘The Glade’ by Stone to spy on Kid Pop. Onitiri’s presence and outstanding vocals are as dangerously intoxicating as the subject matter.

The writers have put together a wonderfully strong piece of theatre. It shuns digging deep into the nature of addiction, but it never belittles it. The abundant humour never mocks these characters – there is too much affection and care in the writing. But let us not forget that this is a musical. And the score is exceptional. From stadium rock to cheesy-pop; power ballads alternate with rousing ensemble pieces. Duets and solos tug our hearts in all directions possible. All pulsing with wonderfully clever and emotive lyrics, and swaying to the rhythms of Gary Lloyd’s sharp choreography.

“Rehab” comes with a message but is so beautifully dressed up in song and dance we soak it up without realising what we are learning. We are just swept along on the highs and lows of a truly addictive performance.

 

 

Reviewed on 7th September 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior

 

 

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