Beats

Kieran Hurley
Show and Tell
Soho Theatre

Kieran Hurley
Kieran Hurley and Hushpuppy
Kieran Hurley and Hushpuppy

Kieran Hurley brings his award-winning story of a fifteen-year-old boy’s experience of the rave scene in 90s Scotland to London’s Soho Theatre, with thumping results.

As Hurley introduces himself, the live DJ (Hushpuppy), and the VJ video artist (Jamie Wardop), he also informs us of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act that prohibited public gatherings around amplified music characterised by “the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”.

The story centres on Johnno McCreadie—a teenage boy from a small Scottish town with a passion for dance music—and his desire to experience a rave whilst his mother copes with her fears of Johnno being led astray by his mates.

Intertwined with Johnno’s story is that of Robert Dunlop, a middle-aged police office who has a difficult relationship with his father. Through Robert’s narrative, Hurley explores the social consequences of deindustrialisation in the 1980s as well as ideas of generational differences, which is thread through both storylines.

In spite of the performance space being occupied only by Hurley sitting at a table, a projector screen, and the DJ’s set at the side of the stage, the entire production feels much larger. This can be put down to clever interplay of heavy dance music and the use of live-mixing video footage, which help to create the atmosphere of a nightclub—thankfully without any drunken patrons or a sticky floor.

Hurley plays all the characters with magnificent ease and is highly convincing, whether he is a teenager, Johnno’s mother, or a dodgy party-lover from Essex. The transition into each character is a pure delight to watch.

The pulsing rhythm of the music itself is complimented by Hurley’s poetic lyricism, the stunning use of spotlights (Johnny Whoop) as well as the visual projections that capture the essence of the 1990s with wonderful accuracy. Certain memorable images include teletext, a marching police battalion and the demolition of Ravenscraig steelworks, creating the idea of a destitute and decaying urban landscape.

After being handed earplugs and warned, “It’s going to be loud”, there was an air of great expectation—I wanted to be deafened. To a degree my expectations were met, yet, in some respects, I felt it could have been even louder.

This is obviously my own preference and I understand the need to be conscientious of other audience members’ ears, but it would have been nice to feel the music through the seats.

Reviewer: Sean Brooks