Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster

It may be somewhat difficult to comprehend what can come of the words ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘beatboxing’.

Is there someone dressed like Frankenstein beatboxing? Is it just beatboxing with the word ‘Frankenstein’ thrown in? If you assumed either of those you’re be dead wrong.

In reality, what you get is an 80-minute musical spectacle from six diversely skilled and exceptionally talented performers. If beatboxing ensembles where superheroes these guys and girls would be the Avengers.

London’s very own BAC Beatbox Academy brings it’s ‘On Tour’ group to the Adelaide Fringe for Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster. Showcasing a multi-talented crew consisting of young rappers, beatboxers, and vocalists, this is a show which has to be heard to be believed.

Their approach to Mary Shelley’s original is incredibly unique, breaking down the content to three playful, entertaining, and quite socially relevant chapters. They deal with what exactly makes a monster in the modern age and how current behaviours and activities impact today’s youth. Dealing with themes of social media, body image, and mental health the show gives plenty of food for thought.

That alone is not all that Frankenstein has on offer; in addition to their narrative, they take plenty of time to interact and engage with the audience. You may find yourself part of a literal human drum machine at the hands of the group’s director, Conrad Murray (who really knows how to work a crowd). You’ll also witness plenty of tongue in cheek banter, improvisation, and short but sweet beatbox renditions of well-known songs such as Prodigy’s “Firestarter” and Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack”. While the ending of the show won’t be spoiled, it is certainly a fun and heavily entertaining conclusion that guarantees no two shows will be the same.

One aspect of Frankenstein that needs to be commended is its ability to balance tone. The group can have you chuckling with glee one minute and deeply contemplative the next, a true feat in itself.

You will be scratching your head in utter bewilderment throughout as you think “how exactly are they doing that with their voices?”. You may think there is a backing track, you may think there is a DJ somewhere backstage, but there is not, they are just that damn talented.

Without a doubt, this show is a must-see for any Fringe goer in 2020.

 

5 stars


Words and photography by Isaac Freeman

Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster is playing at RCC until March 15

For more information and to book tickets, click here

One Morning on a Melbourne Rooftop

When Simon vomited the grief of his father’s death into a plastic bag on the rooftop of a Melbourne hostel, I couldn’t help but consider what a poignant narrative climax it would make. I was standing in fog freckled with security-light orange, hiccupping Smirnoff bile when he moved to the low wall by the edge. Ben ran after him; we were terrified he’d fall or throw himself over. He was trembling and wet-dog snivelling, but he hadn’t been stuck in his end-of-the-world grief all night. Not like he was then.

It was 2008 and we were twenty. Far too young, really, for that kind of grief. The weekend escape had been concocted just days before, the kind of flyaway ‘why not’ you can get away with between university semesters when there’s nothing but long nights in friends’ backyards to fill the space of days. We’d started late in the afternoon with a bottle of vodka and pink and orange slushies from the 7Eleven. We played brain freeze and a game of Presidents and Assholes with Mexican girls who were in town to see the Pope for World Youth Day. It hadn’t been a remarkable evening except that he’d been smiling through most of it. Sitting in the hostel corridor floor, his knees didn’t seem to jut so much from his too-big pants and he had that goofy look like he used to have, back when we’d welt our fingertips from too much Guitar Hero and fall asleep at 4am amongst soda cans and melted M&Ms. So instead of worrying about him, as I had for days, weeks, months, really, I’d been mentally composing a gothic piece set in the Old Gaol just over the road. Flood lights cast shadows on brick beyond the windows and I watched for spectral faces behind the bars — I’d had strange shivers in a cell the day before, one renowned for its paranormal visitations, and there was a story in it, I knew.

When we said goodnight to the Mexicans, I should have expected the hug that began with a moon-smile and ended in his fingers clenching tight to my back, that silent quiver in his bones. That he’d slip through my arms to a bundle on the floor. And that my own heart would break, again, because I couldn’t heal his.

We came up to the roof and he pushed his fingers firmly against me: ‘Fuck off.’

But Ben and I crept up anyway, pressed our ears against the door. We listened to the thud of fold-up chairs, benches scattering against the concrete. The gravelled roar of his yell. That’s when we rushed. We found him standing still, his beanpole silhouette striking against the broad grey of the gaol.

‘I’m gonna be sick.’

Ben ran with a plastic bag pulled from his pockets. The heave of vomit was spectacular. That’s when he stumbled to the low wall by the edge. When I thought he might jump.

The ghosts next door disappeared.

He looked up at us and a shift came over him. Something in his eyes. He peered over the edge, looking down at the wet street: a cat curling around a lamppost, the short white apartment building opposite. He rocked back on his heels and grinned. Then he threw it. The wobbling bag, strangely graceful in its own way, sailed across the street and landed on slanted tiles above a porthole window. The liquid threatened the plastic, then after a tense moment, rested.

A strange stillness passed.

‘Fucking hell,’ said Ben. ‘That was beautiful.’

Simon gripped us, tipped his head back and, throaty with catharsis, he laughed.

It was difficult not to see the narrative potential.

 


Art by Rhianna Carr
Words by Lauren Butterworth

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALauren Butterworth is a writer, academic and editor with creative work published in a variety of outlets including MeanjinVerity LaWet InkMidnight Echo and more. She is co-director of The Hearth, a readings event that aims to platform exciting local voices in a space that nurtures creativity, conversation and ideas. She is also a host and producer of the podcast Deviant Women which tells the stories of women who dare to break the rules and subvert the system. During the day, she teaches at Flinders University and is editor at MidnightSun Publishing.

You can find Lauren at laurenbutterworth.com and deviantwomenpodcast.com

‘Swallowing Oceans’- By Maalika Jacobs

When the Great Crabs come frothing from the ocean- angry and spitting- it’s Meeko who leaps upon them, shoving them into the rusted tin bucket.

He’s young though. Unpractised.

The Crabs seem to know this, and their claws flash in the early morning light to tear at the fingers that grip their wet bodies. One of them nips triumphantly at a bit of his skin, drawing blood, and Meeko swears throwing the thing into the bucket. He wishes there was someone to see him. They’d think he was nearly a man; what, with the easy swearing and the heavy bucket of wriggling Great Crabs.

Meeko adjusts the bucket, wincing as the metal handle digs into his palm. He swears again, just to see how it sounds out there on the desolate beach. Then he’s up, padding along the grey shoreline all the way to the bush trail that leads home.

Meeko ploughs up the trail, dragging his feet so that the sand clings to the browned soles of his feet. Above him, the flowering colours of the sun’s rising face licks across the sky; an eggy mess of pink and yellow and orange. Meeko loves that sky. But Mamma thinks it’s too tricky- always changing colours, always changing faces. A bruising storm one day, a yawning pale belly the next. Meeko reaches out a hand to the sky anyway, pretends to peel those orange streaks right off it, and places them on his tongue. He smiles at the taste, at the syrupy warmness sliding down his throat.

Real food would be good though. Meeko frowns peering at the bucket of Great Crabs. But the cooking of the Crabs, the tearing off the armour to get to the soft gleaming meat inside, that’s Pappa’s job. Meeko will only make a mess.

He sticks his tongue out at the seething mass of Crabs then carries them over to the side of the house. It’s a weather-beaten thing, tall and ancient, standing alone on the top of the cliff like some forgotten saint.

Meeko glances inside but the white-washed walls only greet him with silence. He shifts uncomfortably, thinking how long it’s been. Probably days, but it feels like years. When will they be back?

Soon, soon,’ he sings to himself. He wanders over to the edge of the cliff since there’s no one around to stop him. The ocean crashes below in a mess of grey, blue, and white, hurtling against the base of the cliff like it wants to topple it. But Meeko raises his hands above his head, stretches high so that the sky is his crown and spits off of the cliff into the water, reminding the ocean who the real king is around here.

But king or not, he’s alone. With the Crab catching and spitting done, Meeko realises there’s nothing left to do but wait. He sits so that his legs dangle off into the endless air. He pulls his thin jumper tighter across his chest and taps his right hand once, twice against his lips for luck and counts and counts the minutes that crawl by.

Waiting

               Waiting

His eyes squeeze shut for a long time and he’s lost in the strange, dark shapes that swirl behind his lids.

When he finally opens his eyes, the gulls are swooping in circles and the ocean is roaring even higher and there- like an apparition along the shore- there they are.

Meeko’s on his feet in a second, running past the house and the bucket of Crabs, skidding dangerously down the crooked path. There’s a small boulder right at the end of the trail and he tries to leap it over it but misjudges his timing and stumbles over it bashing his knees hard against the rough sand. But he doesn’t care he doesn’t care, he picks himself up and sprints down the damp beach towards those figures.

The Crabs scuttle quickly out of the way. Not even the ocean tries to slow him down with its foaming wet tongue.

Mamma!’ he yells, lifting his arms, waving them like wings. ‘Pappa!’

His parents are moving slowly, barely touching each other, their heads bent low against the salty wind.

Meeko’s close enough now to see their faces. He skids to a stop, trying to calm himself.

Mamma?’

Mamma looks up, but her eyes are glazed, dead stars. She says nothing.

I caught the Crabs this morning,’ Meeko says.

She doesn’t curve her lips into one of her soft smiles like he thought she might or ruffle her hand through his mess of dark hair. She brushes past him, as if he’s not even there, and continues down the beach. Pappa watches her go, his jaw set like stone, and for the first time Meeko notices something. It’s pressed against his chest, hidden in the folds of the oversized jacket and bundled up in a grey blanket.

Is that . . .? Can I see?’ Meeko reaches up to touch the small thing but Pappa recoils and Meeko’s hand falls away holding nothing but air.

Sorry. I’m sorry. I- You scared me. Here. Take her.’ Pappa lifts the small thing from his jacket, tucking it gently into Meeko’s arms. ‘Don’t move, do you hear? Don’t move, Meeko. I need to get something. I’ll be right back.’

Pappa trudges past too. He’s quicker than Mamma though. He scuffs right past her, going up the trail and leaving her behind.

Meeko shifts his arms to hold the small thing more securely, confusion choking his mind like smoke. What’s wrong with his parents? He thought they’d be happy to be back, happy to show the small thing to Meeko.

Meeko peeks curiously at the mound of flesh in his arms, using a finger to lift the blanket away from her face. He smiles, sunshine spilling in his chest. She’s asleep, eyes squeezed shut and little hands clasped together. No hair. But her ears are exquisite- tiny sea shells tinged the palest of pinks.

Sister.’ The word rushes from his lips like a quiet ocean wave. He leans down, kissing the tip of her nose. She’s not at all warm and squishy like he thought. A bit pale too. He lifts the blanket over her again, thinking it’s probably just the cold air.

But then something- fear– flickers in the dark corners of his mind and he lifts the blanket up again to see her face. Pale, still. So still. He turns his head, bringing his ear down to her mouth to listen for her breath but all he can hear is the drowning pounding of his own blood roaring in his ears. Pulse. There must be a pulse, right? He finds her hand, feels her stiff fingers, doesn’t even know where he’s supposed to feel for a pulse. Sister. Sister?

Meeko.’

Pappa’s walking towards him. There’s a box in his hand and a small wooden bowl of salt.

Meeko sees the things, knows what they’re for but he doesn’t quite understand.

Pappa?’

I’m sorry Meeko, I’m sorry.’ Pappa’s words are rushed, pouring out too quickly for Meeko to grab onto. ‘These things happen. The Healer did his best but sometimes these things just happen.’

What things?’

It wasn’t meant to happen.’

What things!?’

Meeko.’ Pappa shakes his head, tears sliding down into his beard. Meeko can’t help it, he sobs. Only once. A hard, racking cry that makes the dead bundle in his arms shudder.

We brought her home,’ Pappa rasps. ‘We’ll send her off the right way. Be strong now, Meeko. You knew this might happen. We knew.’

Meeko watches his father drop to his knees, set the small box down on the sand and lift the lid. ‘Pass her here.’

But Meeko holds her tighter, his fingers digging into the rough fabric of the blanket.

Come now. This is the way. We have to send her off right,’ he says again.

Meeko sniffs, wiping at the burning in his eyes. He gets to his knees, ignoring Pappa’s outstretched hands, and softly sets his sister down into the box. She fits perfectly.

Pappa closes his eyes for a moment. An eternity. Then he reaches for the bowl, pinching up a few grains of salt and touching it to her frozen lips. Meeko does the same. He looks away when Pappa puts the lid back on.

What about Mamma?’ Meeko asks.

Pappa stands, turning to the ocean with the box clutched to his heart.

She doesn’t want to see. It’s just me and you.’ And he holds out a shaking hand.

Meeko takes it. Feeling Pappa shake makes him steady.

Together they wade out into the crashing waves, shivering involuntarily at the biting cold. They stop when the waves are far behind and the water gets to Meeko’s chest. They’re both shivering so bad they can barely speak. Pappa lets go of Meeko’s hand, taps the top of the box once, twice for luck and then places it on the seething surface of the sea.

They watch her go. Meeko wonders how long it will take for her to sink. The sinking’s inevitable, Pappa used to tell him. She’ll drift to the bottom, the weight of the water pressing down on her sea-shell ears. She’ll be swallowing oceans and oceans forever. Maybe the Crabs will find her. There’ll be no armour to stop them from nipping, biting, clawing.

The ocean swells around them, pushing at Meeko’s legs and trying to unmoor him. He wobbles, almost swept along with his sister by the strong current. But Pappa’s there, his hand gripped tight around Meeko’s wrist, anchoring him.

They watch the baby go,

the soft sound of her small soul

     drifting

                  drifting.


Words by Maalika Jacobs

Growing up, books were the worlds I lived in. Each book, each page, each word was where I not only where I met heroes and villains and all sorts of wild, wonderful people but where I met different versions of myself. The best and worst parts of my self- each scattered through the words of someone I’d never met.
So of course I began to write. I write in the hopes that one day I can create something important- that one day another person may stumble across my words and find a reflection of themselves etched in paper and ink.