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Addictive Beat from Boundless Theatre at Southwark Park Galleries

There are certain chart music tunes that stick in the mind, such as ‘Bad Romance’ by Lady Gaga or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen. Do they count as ‘addictive beats’? The one that Alex (Fionn Whitehead) and Robbi (Boadicea Ricketts) love to hate is ‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson and featuring Bruno Mars. The duo have retained their childhood friendship into adulthood, though dividing lines that started to appear some years ago become more entrenched, as Alex expresses concerns about how much Robbi is prepared to compromise to make a living in the entertainment industry, point-blank accusing her of “choosing commercial success over artistic integrity”.

Addictive Beat - Credit Harry Elletson
Addictive Beat – Credit Harry Elletson.

It wouldn’t be the first time a young and upcoming talented singer-songwriter gets exploited by people who apparently know better – the narratives in various jukebox musicals provide plenty of evidence of people who achieved stardom but were also screwed over by people who were more mis-managers than managers. Still, Robbi has her faith in Callum (who the audience never actually meets), and they seem to have a strategy in place. But both still have jobs outside the music business – Robbi works in a café, and Alex in a shop.

I’m not convinced Robbi promoting herself as though she were a brand is worthy of criticism, whether from Alex or anyone else – I’m pretty sure I’ve done the same thing, although in different contexts. I once paid someone to write my CV for me (they called me, rightly or wrongly, a “highly diligent and versatile professional”, and that’s been on my CV for years). And what about extolling what one is good at during a job interview? Then there’s telling others, including you, dear reader, about the time I overstretched myself and reviewed sixty-five shows in two weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The audience configuration was curious to say the least – the lucky few, including yours truly (there I go again, promoting myself as though I were a brand) were sat on metal trunks, which themselves became increasingly uncomfortable as the evening wore on. Most, however, were invited, for want of a better word, to stand for the duration (ninety minutes without interval), in a show that didn’t involve any audience interaction, save for patrons having to awkwardly shuffle out of the way whenever either or both actors needed to get to a different part of the space. Even the closing number, a suitably pulsating and positive tune, included no active encouragement to the audience to get up and dance. As the show went on, some took to sitting on the floor, which resulted in a win-win situation, improving sightlines for others stood behind.

The show isn’t entirely without cliches – Robbi stops mid-performance at one of her own gigs, overwhelmed with emotion as she has a eureka (or perhaps it’s an anti-eureka) moment, and elsewhere Alex gets so obsessed with creating a new piece of music he ends up losing his day job because he’s missed too many shifts. But the play also avoids the melodrama of tragedy (even if it comes close to it), and there are lengthy and interesting discussions about how music affects human behaviour: dopamine is spoken of as though it’s a stimulant drug.

The play’s conclusion came across as rushed and lacking detail, especially in light of the descriptions and dramatisations in the rest of the show. The duo managed to understand they needed outside help to overcome their challenges, but what form did that take? It was, frankly, a missed opportunity to, however subtly, signpost anyone who themselves may be feeling overwhelmed towards possible sources of assistance. The production raises some intriguing questions about how far people should go in pursuit of their personal ambitions, as well as the benefits of having a close friend who can tell it like it is. There’s a lot of movement and dance in this show that it’s almost exhausting to watch. If only the storyline were as convincing as the performances from two very committed actors.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Part theatre, part rave, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Dunkirk star Fionn Whitehead and DJ Anikdote star in a new production that aims to bring theatre to EDM fans and other new audiences. Staged in an art gallery in South London (Southwark Park Galleries) the show explores creative obsessions – is chasing the high of being worshipped by millions ever really enough? Addictive Beat follows two best friends who create a euphoric beat that could change their lives forever. This is theatre like you’ve never experienced it before.

https://boundlesstheatre.org.uk/

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