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Beats by Kieran Hurley (Edinburgh Fringe)

Set in a Scottish town, Kieran Hurley's Beats explores the implication of outlawing raves, through the eyes of a 15-year-old boy

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Fifteen-year-old Johnno McCreadie is on the verge of a life-changing night; his first steps into the world of raves and hallucinogenic drugs.

Set in Livingston in the mid 90's, when the controversial Criminal Justice and Public Order Act attempted to outlaw raves ("public gatherings around amplified music characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats"), Beats is a beautifully told story about a boy disappointed with the world in which he's found himself.

Kieran Hurley, who performs his own writing here, employs the skills of a DJ to mix music live on stage and video artist Jamie Wardrop to do the same for projections that create the backdrop for the show. Both are used to good effect and compliment the story effectively, and although the atmosphere does become stifling and overwhelming, it sets exactly the right tone for the piece. This is immersive storytelling of a rare variety and is genuinely fascinating.

Hurley sits at a desk and speaks into a microphone, lit only by a lamp, moving in and out of several characters with some skill, and barely stopping for breath. We follow not only Johnno and his two friends, but also his worrying mother and policeman Robert Dunlop through the events of the night. Character switches are sometimes unclear, and although Hurley performs brilliantly, some more work is needed on his different voices.

The subject matter is also not always easy to connect with; the world of techno and raves isn't one that many of us are familiar with. That said, Beats is well written, subtle and touching, contemplating several difficult subjects without appearing condescending or overly judgemental. It's easy to see why the show is enjoying such success, and it's well worth catching.

- Chris Snow

Beats by Kieran Hurley is showing at the Pleasance Courtyard on 11 August