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Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Beats by Kieran Hurley

Show and Tell/The Arches

Genre: Verbatim Theatre

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard,


Low Down

Kieran Hurley is a compelling narrator who takes us on the journey of one 15 year old who follows the beat and takes us into the murky world where music is King and the authorities the oppressor. With an advocate of the anarchic feel of drug induced liberty at the helm we get to understand the absurdity of the law’s response to raves. Passing it off as a political anarchic response to the times though does not totally convince.


We enter to the sound of the late eighties with lights and smoke giving the taste of a rave. Kieran explains in his interactive element that he is going to take us on a narrated journey though when he decides it is time for him to tell the story our interruptions are to stop. What follows is an evocative explanation of why a teenager, actually why any teenager from teddy boy and punk to rave attender, would rebel against the boredom of their times and go raving. Live mixes of video and music combine to give background and a technical lift to one man, in a chair with a microphone.


At times the writing is direct, poetic or simple base narrative. Hurley is a storyteller of his youth which makes him popular with the crowd. They are all here to see this beats poet. The quality of his writing is undeniable if the flights on which he takes us does not convince me that this movement was a movement at all.


Hurley sits and narrates well. It’s a skill to use so little to keep a full crowd attentive – even beyond telling them, to shut it. I am no expert on video or music mixing but they both appeared to be appropriate and in particular some of the video clips which were mixed added to the overall feeling of this being a highly emotive piece. Belief was on show and there were many true believers in the audience.


The staging was very basic but then again it didn’t need to add much. This was designed to be the elevation of poetic licence to an event many condemned as lawlessness. As a verbatim piece of theatre that explored a cultural trend amongst young people Beats worked to an extent. Where I felt lost was that Hurley becomes an over indulgent narrator. Where he lost me completely was when one of the young women left early his response was clearly from a bygone age.


Artists need critics otherwise art would fall in upon itself and even if our critics interrupt our most sought after moment we need to take heed of their comments – even if it is to dismiss them. In essence –want our respect – model such behaviour yourself. To not do so punctures the point you are making and the people on whose behalf you are advocating are let down.


I had picked this piece because it was both curated by Made in Scotland and covered a period of time when young people willingly became lawbreakers until the tragedy in my home town of Hanger 13 brought it all crashing down. I wanted to see if the young people had matured into thinkers because of the experience. The conclusion I drew was that they had but that some rough edges still need rubbed…


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