Beats North

“Being a DJ is like being a storyteller,” we are told at the opening of Beats North, a heartfelt celebration and exploration of the powers of music. This performance highlights how you can trace your life through the series of songs that accompany you through it. Put to music your joys and sufferings, suiting the most varied of moods and events, and it will help you to understand them.

Although the plots are a little simple, the show is a refreshing take on the relationship between one’s musical taste and one’s identity.

Luke Barnes and Ishy Din explore the influence of music on the lives of two teenage boys as they struggle to make their way towards adult life. Two stories play out, intercutting one another, meaning that each actor plays out a scene alone before passing the stage space over to the other. In themselves, the two boys’ stories are rather banal: the first is about Jack, who is struggling to come to terms with his parents’ divorce and has developed an emotional attachment to a rag doll which his father struggles to accept; the second is the story of a Pakistani boy, Al, brought up in England, whose brother is in some serious trouble. Al develops a relationship with an upper-class British girl whilst learning to play the guitar.

Though the premise is simple, the delivery of the stories transcends the ordinary. Expertly directed by Amy Golding and designed by Holly Seager, the set-up at Summerhall is visually effective, resembling something between a chat show set and a colourful club venue. The actors interact with the audience well, sitting alongside us when not on stage, giving a very relaxed, open feel to the performance.

Award-winning DJ Mariam Rezaei is present throughout the whole performance on the decks, matching each of the actors’ movements with turntable scratch sounds and tunes that set the scene. This is the highlight of the performance; it gives it its greatest purpose. Music is what the boys hold dearest and closest to their hearts. All voices in the boys’ stories other than their own are pre-recorded and played out by the the DJ too, often undergoing manipulation along the way. Indeed Rezaei stands as though puppetmaster of the performance, her music in some way dictating Jack and Al’s every move. Using popular music to translate these boys’ stories is particularly effective as it easily conveys the generational conflict and troubles of the heart that they are facing.

Beats North puts its finger on the wide variety of lives and ages that music spans. What is each person ‘supposed’ to listen to and what do they actually listen to? Most importantly, why? Although the plots are a little simple, the show is a refreshing take on the relationship between one’s musical taste and one’s identity. The troupe could, however, have taken this original experience a little further, daring to push Jack and Al’s stories slightly beyond the unremarkable and rather stereotypical coming of age stories of two angsty teenage boys. This is a feel-good performance that will leave you conjecturing what the soundtrack to your own life would sound like.

Reviews by Maria Hagan

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The Blurb

Is this a man’s world? Beats North is a double bill of new plays by Luke Barnes and Ishy Din exploring the soundtrack to our lives through the eyes and ears of two young men who are still trying to figure it out. The individual stories of our characters Jack and Al are seamlessly interwoven live on stage by award-winning scratch DJ Mariam Rezaei. Come join the party and request a song for your soundtrack. Beats North was the winner of the Northern Stage Title Pending Award 2013. Directed by Amy Golding, designed by Holly Seager.