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Review: Shlomo and the Vocal Orchestra: Boxed - A Beatboxing Adventure

Sholmo has ditched a script in favour of some well orchestrated beatboxing.

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Words: David Barros

Images used with permission

 

Boxed LogoThe first time I went to the beatboxing regional heats last year I didn't expect to hear any live vocals - it was human beatboxing, after all.

 

Seeing Boxed, I expected there to be speech, but I didn't hear any dialogue. Shlomo and his amazing vocal orchestra flipped the script!

 

Boxed tells the story of Lonely Joe, a shy guy who can only communicate through beatboxing. Upon meeting charismatic Afro, he’s show he’s not the only one, and there's nothing to worry about.

 

Boxed - A Beatboxing AdventureIn saying “flipped the script,” all interaction between the characters is done through beatboxing. The good guys beatbox upbeat rhythms, the bad guys use a selection of downbeat sounds and genres, often threatening dubstep. The rest is up to the viewer to interpret.

How all of the beatbox conversations were all scripted and seamlessly executed leaves you in wonderment - it must have taken hours of patience-testing rehearsals to get it exactly right.

 

Boxed feels a little slow to start off as it gets into the story and sets the scene. The stage has no props present, instead using a projection screen.

Not that the story should be focused on: the selling point of Boxed is its physical aspect, such as arranging the characters as different sounds in a drum kit before thrashing out a beat on their heads with an imaginary pair of drumsticks. That, and there's plenty humour to keep things moving.

 

 

The cast are all capable of beatboxing, but they are also accomplished vocalists, of a professional and operatic standard. When the group travels to the 1990s and sing a cover of I'm A Believer, the similarity between the actual track and their beatboxing was astounding.

There’s also a scene where the action take a turn for the worse, and it’s accompanied by an operatic score that was so close to something from a film that it was moving enough to give you goosebumps!

 

The second half of the show, when the characters time travel, is when the excitement picks up, with songs from the 60s,70s 80s and 90s. All of the songs are so well orchestrated you recognise them in an instant, and although the audience was a little dead/suprised/confused on the opening night of Boxed, there’s a lot for all ages to enjoy and clap along to in future shows.

 

It’s funny, it’s easy to understand, and the non-speaking approach is a credit as to one of the many ways beatboxing can be used to communicate with an audience.

Beatboxing + dancing

It’s worth mentioning that the choreographic talent of Simeon Qsyea was drafted in as the show’s movement director. Watching on the opening night of the show, he was responsible for placing the characters during the musical numbers.

Not strictly speaking choreography (some of the singers looked like they were having so much fun performing that they would never have taken much notice of steps), it gave the show a tidy feel with stage traffic, and presented the songs and dance routines suitably to their style.

 

Boxed cast list

Shlomo – Lonely Joe

Ben Francis – Afro

Nelly Elessa, Claudia Georgette and Johannah Jolson – The Misfits

Billy Boothroyd, Testament and Robin Bailey – The Cronies

Grace Savage – Beatrix Badmouth

DJ Walde - Hooded Youth

Malaki Alfred-Lecky – Hooded Kid

Adam Anthony Headley – Hooded Kid

Boxed credits

Written by Shlomo

Script devised by Ruth Little

Additional dramaturgy by Tom Morris

Original music and arrangements by Shlomo

Additional arranging by Jeremy Kahn

Time travel music sequence devised by DJ Yoda

 

Crew

Ramin Gray – Director

DJ Walde – Assistant Creative Director

John Maddox – Lighting Design

Matt Pengelly – Sound Design

Simeon Qsyea – Movement Director

Paul Bloomfield – Projection Designer

Jemima Penny – Costume Supervisor

Irit Kahn – Company Manager

Kath Boddy – Southbank Centre Event Producer

 

Related articles:

Review: Boxettes showcase at Cargo

 

Layth wins Vauxhall UK Beatbox Championship 2010 South East Heat

 

We’re Excited About... Vauxhall UK Beatbox Championships 2009

- Interview with Layth

Layth wins 2009 Vauxhall UK Beatbox London Heats

 

Related links:

HumanBeatbox.com

Shlomo

 

Related sections:

Beatboxing