ADDICTIVE BEAT at the Dilston Gallery
“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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