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Review: ADDICTIVE BEAT, Dilston Gallery (Southwark Park Galleries)

Review: ADDICTIVE BEAT, Dilston Gallery (Southwark Park Galleries)

Dawn King's new play for Boundless Theatre is a missed opportunity and fails to invite a younger generation to explore mental health.

Review: ADDICTIVE BEAT, Dilston Gallery (Southwark Park Galleries) What would happen if you created a sound so powerful that it comes closer to mind control than music? You would become consumed by it and stay up days on end, perfecting it to the most minor frequency, becoming obsessed with the exhilaration it gives you. Dawn King (Foxfinders and, more recently, The Trials at the Donmar) writes Addictive Beats, a sci-fi-esque look at the process of music creation.

Alex - Dj ALX - and Robbi - Robbi-with-an-i - grew up making music jointly. Now that she's left their small town to cement her career in London, Alex is stuck trying to compose the track that will change his life, "the one". Dunkirk and Black Mirror alumn Fionn Whitehead and Boadicea Ricketts are the duo. Directed by Rob Drummer for Boundless Theatre, they explore the search for fame and creativity in a generally redundant and overly long, but attractively produced show.

Playing at Dilston Gallery in the middle of Southwark Park, the production is sold as immersive gig theatre and rides on the coattails of its famous names. While it's a striking collaboration of fresh and unique minds and a great example of the use of a nontraditional space, the reality of it is slightly different from what's on paper. Officially running at 100 minutes (but actually extending beyond that), the "immersive" nature of it is strictly related to the lack of chairs.

The audience are required to stand completely still for all of it. When minute 45 hits and the pair finally realise that they can collaborate again and therefore help one another escape anonymity, it dawns that there won't be any ambling about, so those closest to the main stage lower to the floor to sit down. The show mainly plays in the round with two trunks on the sides and a frontal stage at the back to allow some leeway, but the lack of seating is totally unnecessary.

Thematically, the piece is thought-provoking in its theories but unstimulating in their examination. It introduces the concept of musical strategy and obsession, but leaves the mental health discourse it keeps hinting at to the very end. King's text is intriguing but superficial, and surprisingly dull. Music is seen as a coping mechanism and a refuge, but these aspects aren't investigated enough to the advantage of throwaway lines on Alex's envy over Robbi's online presence and her unsuccessful management.

"You're choosing commercial success over artistic integrity" he says, bitter and defeated. So, they work together, which gives Anikdote and Dom Coyote the chance to deliver a thrilling score mixed with precision and mastery. Robbi's covers of popular hits give way to techno and EDM that carry the characters through the production.

Movement director Ira Mandela Siobhan and Drummond move the actors according to the beat, although the excitement of this dangerous tune is only conveyed by the frenzy that takes them over and makes them jitter like addicts in withdrawal. Moments of physical theatre where they're bouncing something invisible between them - supposedly composing the song - stall the show, while others make their kool kid personas disappear with bad dance moves and pretentious lingo.

Ricketts proves herself a singer with impressive range, while Whitehead reveals a sweet tenor when he finally joins in. However, they come off as constricted by the text, which precludes them from an in-depth look into their characters' intimate journey. We learn about their relationship with music, but we don't get a deep dive into the confidential side of this rapport. Alex is clearly depressed, but neither King nor Whitehead nor Drummer dwell on it until the epilogue. It's a shame.

Addictive Beats is a missed opportunity and fails to invite a younger generation to explore mental health. Sure, the music is crazy cool and the show promises a great vibe, but, as it is, it's a production that only scrapes the top of its themes. It saves a lot of money on seat rental, though!

Addictive Beats runs at Dilston Gallery until 8 October.

Photo Credit: Harry Elletson

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From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

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