Dublin Fringe Review: Beat

Review by Joanna Kelly

“If every time you leave the house you try to have the most fun you’ve ever had, how do you know when to go home?”

Fionntán Larney and Dominic O’Brien’s new rap musical is surely one of the most important shows of 2018. A minimalist stage, stripped back lighting on boom poles, and nothing pre-set but three mics on the floor assures the audience that something profound is about to happen. Martha Breen as “C” rushes in, grabbing a mic and urges all us motherf****rs to enjoy the show. The beat kicks in.

This show is about night-life, friends, drugs, relationships (their creation and demise), and job interviews, but above all else, it is about the sesh. Outwardly, it seems like the perfect anthem for a generation, the final year/post-grad students navigating Dublin city on their own and separating the responsibilities of life from the responsibilities of the sesh.

In reality, it is so much more than that. It deeply explores issues of toxic masculinity, even within the relationship of two life-long friends, and the damage internalised emotion can bring. In a theatre scene flooded with feminist issues, Larney makes a bold move in much of his prodigious writing, striking chords with anyone in the audience who might proudly declare themselves a feminist.

It is thoroughly refreshing and much needed to hear the motifs of toxic masculinity spew from the mouths of the protagonists, challenging what we as an audience feel we are prepared to hear. The writing is of such a standard that when the female counter-argument is given, it is difficult to remember these two voices were written by the same person. Fionntán Larney proves his mastery in creating complex characters, through kickin’ cool rhyming rap no less.

All three performances are powerfully imparted, with Larney’s more sensitive and grounded “B” in stark contrast to Harry Higgins’ alpha male “A”. Martha Breen portrays every other character in between, as well as providing backing vocals. Her voice is hauntingly impressive, and the music created by Larney, Isaac Jones and Morgan Beausang is so seamlessly put together its presence throughout various scenes is just as much a fourth performer.

The lighting design by Fenna von Hirschheydt is simple, with moments of anger and love buzz well implied. While some of O’Brien’s directing is lazy in places (more diverse physicality in Breen’s myriad of roles, accents, and playing with annunciation to greater reflect the city’s voices with oomph would have been welcome) this show is extraordinarily well crafted.

These artists have created a much needed narrative among the arts today, and only good can come from seeing this. 

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