Edinburgh Fringe 2019
A new show that focuses on the beat – the foundation and the groove of the music – using rap, tap dancers, and beat boxers.
This is new show from the Nic Doodson, producer of a cappella groups The Magnets and Gobsmacked! and show The Choir of Man, and Soweto Gospel Choir. Noise Boys focuses on the beat, the foundation and the groove of the music. This show pairs award-winning beatboxers with top performing artists who make the beat with their feet – tap dancers. Each of the performers has their own unique style but the show works because of the overarching theme of rhythm. It is an hour of high energy from a young troupe of highly-skilled artists.
The show is set in a factory, with large crates as set pieces and performers in overalls. The movable crates become performance surfaces for the dancers, singer, and beatboxers. The staging gives the show a theatrical look, beyond a simple music performance.
Although there are some instrumental bits in the show, it is primarily a cappella, which is hugely popular. The a cappella resurgence is strong and international. From the four billion YouTube views for sensations Pentatonix to the three Pitch Perfect a cappella-themed movies to Disney’s new touring show called D-Cappella, audiences can’t seem to get enough of hearing just the voice. Great a cappella groups incorporate many sounds beyond straight singing. They often aim to sound like a band, and will mimic the guitar, trombone, trumpet, bass – and the drums. And that is what is referred to as vocal percussion, mouth drumming, or beat boxing. Beatboxers use their tongue, mouth, lips, throat, voice, and breath to mimic the sounds of a drum kit as precisely as possible. It is a complex coordination of body parts, each combination leading to a different pitch, timbre, or sound. Some even make the sounds while humming, singing or speaking.
Most a cappella groups incorporate a beat boxer or vocal percussionist to add drive to the music. You can hear beat boxers on street corners practicing their art or even on the underground trying out new techniques. Most of us are in awe of how they can manage a wide variety of sounds how they produce the equivalent of show-stopping drum solos. They seem to never take a breath!
Noise Boys features beatboxer Hobbit, the official 2x UK Loopstation Champion, and X Factor 2017 finalist beatboxer Joel Fishel, who show the audience the vast range of the craft. From creating movie-like sound effects to replicating a drum kit (complete with tuning the drums), they impress with their ease of delivery of complex combinations of sounds and singing. Narrator/rapper RoxXan provides interstitial commentary as a counterpoint to the percussive artists, rapping about her life and dreams. World-class tapper dancers Alex Larder, Matt Jordan, Adam Hilton, and Benjamin Ash never seem to break a sweat, despite leaping on and off crates, performing with perfectly timed coordination between the dancers. The fancy footwork is exhilarating. Talented musicians Jacob Leeson and George Fowler complete the cast.
The production manages to keep our attention for an hour of just rhythm by varying the styles of presentation and the combinations of performers. Some segments are solo beatboxers or tap dancers, and others are collaborations between the two elements. Comic elements are interspersed throughout.
In a previous Fringe, there was a show that presented a cast of beat boxers. This show is more interesting because of the combination of crafts. However, it could be improved with a narrative that ties it all together. It is recommended for all ages.