Watching beatboxing is fun for most of us in the same way that watching acrobatics is – it’s the enjoyment that comes from thinking ‘I could never do this in a million years’. The Beatbox Collective (think beatboxing super-group) present a performance which is essentially audible gymnastics: they use every part of their mouths, popping, clicking, humming, trying to deliver on their mantra that any sound on earth can be replicated by the human voice. And they do make an incredible variety of sounds, very realistically. Close your eyes for a few seconds during this show and you really could plausibly be at home watching tv, or standing on the tube, or listening to the radio.
This show is what it promises: an hour-long showcase of a skill you almost certainly don’t have, and don’t see every day.
It’s unclear how far this disbelief on the part of the audience can carry a show. Beatboxing is a novelty and it needs to remain novel to keep the audience engaged: it doesn’t always necessarily sound nice, so at every moment it must be impressive. And to be fair, The Beatbox Collective manage this very well. They’re clearly all masters of their craft, but they’re especially good at combining to create a wall of sound that invariably sounds exactly like whatever phenomenon they’re trying to mimic. They recreate Garage tracks, they musically reconstruct a day in the life of a beatboxer (waking up to an alarm clock, eating breakfast, commute to rehearsal), they perform a mashup of classic hip-hop tracks which goes down extremely well with the crowd.
Conscious perhaps of the need to constantly shake things up to engage the audience, The Beatbox Collective shift between different sections of the show with great fluency. I’m no beatboxing aficionado, and neither, it seemed, was anyone else in the crowd, so it’s hard to tell when the performers are doing something really impressive – it all sounds bonkers – but what’s genuinely impressive is their imagination. They are good humoured, earnest, and so inventive with the sounds they create that I do believe they could recreate any artificial sound organically. A highlight of the show was when the performers ‘battled’ each other; they clearly enjoy it, and enjoy impressing and making each other laugh.
This show is what it promises: an hour-long showcase of a skill you almost certainly don’t have, and don’t see every day. It’s good fun in the evening with a drink, and the large crowd certainly had a great time. The Beatbox Collective received a standing ovation at the end of their show, and I don’t think it will be the last one they get this Fringe.