Utilising a former mission church, Boundless Theatre have found a resonantly perfect venue for their new production, Addictive Beat. The audience first meets the central characters of Alex (Fionn Whitehead) and Robbi (Boadicea Ricketts) as they move rhapsodically on a dance floor. In sacred wonder, they observe the chemical and biological effects the beat rapturously inflicts upon their bodies. Brains commune with a higher power. Synapses surge in a discharge of dopamine. For these two individuals trembling with youth, this momentary deliverance is refuge and sanctuary from the tyranny of the mundane. It is a form of religion. This surrender to the music, and its properties of transport, is a serious pursuit. For a period of adolescence, they are each other’s support against the ignorance of their peers.

Credit: Harry Elletson

Meeting again after losing touch, the couple find themselves at odds. Knowing each other so well, they can instantly call each other out on their BS. Robbi has moved to London to pursue a singing career. Alex has remained in his hometown, struggling to establish himself as a DJ. Lives have stalled on the altar of adulthood. Alex accuses Robbi of sacrificing authenticity. Robbi challenges Alex’s stubborn integrity which prevents him from actually producing work. Alex, a purist, approaches music from a theoretical perspective. At one stage, a mathematical formula for an ear worm is posited. Both struggle with crippling anxiety and poor self-image. Sensitivities are raw, susceptible to disagreeable frequencies. In separate monologues, Alex and Robbi spin about in a spiral of increasing mania, detailing the exhaustive, frustrating repetition of their daily routines. Both seem in danger of burning out. Desperate escape into music remains their sole retreat. Alex gives examples of the energising and sustaining power of music across the ages and through cultures.

As long as writer Dawn King keeps her focus on the fragile, deeply tender relationship between the leads, the script soars. She is assisted strongly by two ferociously committed collaborators in Whitehead and Ricketts, who manage to sustain an impressive pitch of energy over the course of an intense and volatile 90 minutes of constantly agitated motion. Onstage continuously, there is very little time for either to rest or catch their breath, with dialogue that is unceasing. Whitehead and Ricketts stalk around on a series of platforms, moving restlessly through the standing crowd. Director Rob Drummer works skilfully with his performers to reach just the right proportions and emphasis given the space and audience arrangement. 

Credit: Harry Elletson

The script takes a rather curious detour in the second half. Certainly not enough to entirely derail the piece, but it does disturb the carefully crafted ecosystem up to this point. Alex and Robbi, now reunited and collaborating, create a binaural beat so profound and transforming that it becomes destructive to all those who listen to it. The sound will signal apocalypse should it ever be released. The night that Alex and Robbi first indulge its power, plays like a sexual encounter, an all-consuming thrall that both are helpless to resist. The sudden turn into dystopian horror hijacks what was up to this point an intimate, humanly scaled study of two individuals attempting to find their way back to a spiritual innocence and healthy outlook. Whitehead and Ricketts with their sure sense of character are able to guide the audience through this passage where the level of hysteria grows a bit tiresome. Clearly meant as metaphor for the worst rabbit holes of addiction, this section belongs to another intriguing narrative altogether. Must a person tear himself or herself apart to achieve a profound work of art? Must the world submit? King wisely relaxes the material in the more modest closing moments. Robbi quietly and truthfully reaches out to Alex with song, coaxing him gently out of darkness. It’s a welcome return to the simple, unvarnished heart that has always been the governing principle of their relationship.

A coda at first plays a bit like an unnecessary public service announcement in which Alex and Robbi bring the audience up to date on their progress, but quickly rebounds as they play us the result of their most recent, post-trauma collaboration. Really, it’s enough to hear the sanely infectious, upbeat piece of music to know they have both found a fresh and safe perspective. DJ Anikdote, who clearly knows his way around an addictive tune, provides the music, free of any binaural siren-song to doom. Persuasive, insistent, his grooves only encourage a few minutes of ecstatic release upon the dance floor.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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