Beats, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh


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The Independent Culture

It’s 11pm and there are lights strobing and music thumping as you enter the theatre for Beats. DJ Johnny Whoop, who started out on the 90s Glasgow rave scene, is on the decks while Jamie Wardrop’s trippy visuals throb and pulse on a big screen behind.

Together they provide the rich sensory backdrop for Kieran Hurley’s brilliant, consciousness-altering monologue about the free party movement and youth protest.

It’s 1994, the government has just banned mass gatherings of people listening to “repetitive beats” and Johnno McCreadie, a 15-year old from Livingston, is going to his first rave. Seated placidly behind a desk, Hurley tells the story of that night, playing Johnno, his pals, his anxious mother and a policeman who breaks up the party.

Hurley’s script is intricately woven - lovingly recalled details of 90s culture (Back to Basics, The Shamen, Princess Zelda) and the ecstatic, sweaty throng of the dancing fields eventually swell into 2011 and the student riots at Millbank. Can music or protest ever be a criminal act? Do the “feral youth” need taming, or is that placing a ban on their imaginations? Beats raises these questions and many more, rattling around in your head and ringing in your ears long after the show is over. It’s the most exhilarating, urgent response to the events of last summer that I’ve seen. A must.

To 26 August (0131 228 1404)