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Beats North (Edinburgh Fringe)

A marriage of theatre and music that lacks substance

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

© Grant Brydon

It is easy enough to see the appeal of blending play and gig. There is plenty theatre could learn from live music, which attracts and engages new audiences in a way that theatre-makers often struggle to do, not to mention creating an infectious sense of event. Beats North aims for the impact of the gig, but in the process of that effort loses a certain chunk of its theatrical clout.

The show combines two monologues by Luke Barnes and Ishy Din with a live onstage DJ. Each miniature play is narrated by a teenage boy: one is coping with his mother's absence with the help of a rag doll and a hefty collection of power ballads, while the other learns heady lessons about music and love. Their stories are intercut and frequently manipulated by the DJ, who becomes a storyteller in her own right. Moments are rewound, fast-forwarded and mashed up, often to hilarious effect.

However enjoyable this is, though, it's hard to shake the feeling that it lacks any real substance. Barnes and Din begin to explore several things – masculinity, family relationships, the growing pains of teenage existence – but never get much further than that. Instead, the monologues remain fragments, small shards of something more interesting.

What does emerge strongly is the emotional sway that music exerts over us, be it the cheesy emotive force of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or the urge to get up and dance to Michael Jackson. When theatre-makers really engage with and question that impulse, that's when the marriage of theatre and music becomes truly potent.