Like James Joyce’s Ulysses, Kieran Hurley’s Beats is the tale of a young man and a man old enough to be his father wending their inexorable paths toward meeting one another. And like Joyce, Hurley bashes the English language into arresting, angular new shapes.
Here though, rather than Dublin city pastoral, we get Scottish rural-urbanism – a story of raves in out-of-the-way fields from 1994 and war waged against them by the last Tory government and police force, but Beats manages to be much more than that.
The staging is a fascinating tension between visual and sonic terrorism and very little movement – DJ Johnny Whoop mixes evocative period-appropriate Aphex Twin and Autechre (and a bit of Aztec Camera) while Jamie Wardrop similarly live-mixes an aggressively flashing, bright video backdrop.
Meanwhile, Hurley (crisply directed by Julia Taudevin) sits still at an old-fashioned desk with a vintage lamp on it. Speaking into a microphone, his contribution to the pyrotechnics bursting around him is largely vocal. It’s a tour-de-force performance, vividly and sympathetically inhabiting the various voices telling the story.
There’s an exciting tension here between the carefully controlled explosions of the narrative and the very real urge to get up and dance. There’s also a cleverly constructed line running through the piece linking the striking 1980s steel-worker father of the of 1994 policeman, flashing forward to the recent student protests at Millbank and a hint at last summer’s riots. Hurley’s media are a very real part of his message; that there is precisely such a thing as society, and that dissent and protest are a vital part of it.
Beats is an insightful, hopeful, pounding vision of the future, that you can dance to.
Photo: Niall Walker