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Interview with Beats&Elements: No Milk For The Foxes

22 April 2015 Marina Nenadic

Fusing beatbox, music, spoken word and rap, No Milk for the Foxes takes a staunch look at Cameron’s England through the eyes of the working class, specifically a couple of blokes on a night shift. London Calling spoke to Beats&Elements duo Paul Cree and Conrad Murray ahead of their upcoming performances at Camden People’s Theatre

LC: How did this production come about?

Conrad: Basically, Paul and I met at Battersea Arts Centre and started talking about shows we’ve seen. We established pretty early on that there wasn’t much out there about working class people, or from a working class voice. So we thought ‘fuck it!’- we want these stories to be told, which reflect our backgrounds. So we decided to make it ourselves.

LC: What did the creative process entail?

Conrad: There were a lot of conversations, freestyling, beat boxing, finding the characters and connections that are not currently represented. Stereotypically a lot of performers are from a middle class background, and a lot of the time those people can’t make fun of other diverse backgrounds, minorities or the working class because it’s too touchy. Because we’re representative of those backgrounds, we can also knock ourselves, and talk about the people and stories we know.

LC: Do you think that theatre is typically inaccessible for people from potentially disadvantaged backgrounds? Is this something you address in the performance?  

Conrad: Yes definitely. I think the performance itself is reaching out to those people from diverse and technically underprivileged backgrounds. One of the characters talks about his ambition in the arts and the lack of opportunities for him, there’s just nothing out there. He can’t pay for more schooling or whatever. This character is interested in the arts, but it’s not readily available for him to experience. That’s relatable for a lot of people

LC: Who did you look up to when you were growing up?

Conrad: I came into theatre quite late, so my frame of reference was all music. I used to like a lot of rock bands as well as hip hop artists. I also liked a lot of stand up comedy, for the storytelling element. Everyone tells stories, my Mum and Dad and my brother told stories, these interactions are really integral.

For me, artists that are from diverse backgrounds are inspirational– a lot of rap artists like Jay-Z, Naz, 50 Cent, and on the UK scene there’s people like Noel Gallagher. He came from a council estate and he quite openly talks about it. He’ll say ‘I’m working class’ whereas a lot of people don’t want to say that. But Noel Gallagher isn’t ashamed.

LC: You’re running a number of workshops with young people in Camden in the run up to the performances. Why do you think it’s important for young people to engage with arts and politics?

Conrad: I think art helps with a lot of things, you can live vicariously through a character, express yourself, bring your own thoughts, views and engage in debates without the fear of being judged by your peers. We use beatboxing, music and acting to help the young people express their views, open up to the performance and the art, and enjoy it.

Paul: Going on from what Conrad said, I think that with any type of workshop and particularly drama workshops, a young person taking on a character is going to help them think about things from a completely different perspective. This can also help them develop their social awareness as well as self confidence, which can feed into other areas of their life.

I think that part of the problem with politics is that it can feel very inaccessible, especially the language, which is really difficult to understand, you’re going to switch off to. If we can help people to understand it, then that will hopefully feed into their own personal decisions and how they view the world and society around them. It will make them more engaged citizens.

LC: Do you think young people today are more politically aware than they perhaps used to be?

Paul: I think they definitely are, in the last couple of elections I would say people are a lot more interested in what’s going on. Between social media and the televised debates, I think a lot more people are trying to listen to older people and figure out what’s going on. They’re aware that they’ve been let down and there’s a shared disappointment there.

LC: What do you think makes a good performance poet?

Conrad: Truthfulness. I think you have to be true to yourself. And that’s what the work is about, it’s about the lives that we have lived and the things we’ve seen, and showing that without worrying about the comeback, because it’s an opinion which should be told.

Paul: I think it’s about truthfulness in physicality too, some performers don’t move around much, some do a lot, it’s about showing yourself and people will relate to that.

LC: This performance is part of Camden People’s Theatre ‘The State We’re In’ Festival, which coincides with the run up to the General Election. What would you like your audiences to take away from this performance?

Conrad: I would like them to try and make a change, and be inspired to listen to what’s going on around them. Just sitting back and thinking that politics does nothing to your life is ridiculous. It affects everything in our lives, and we hope that by showing our audience the politics of people like them, who are just people, that they are compelled to want a change. If it makes them question how society has shifted in the last five years because of political action, then we’ll be quite happy. We want to be entertaining as well, but we also want them to vote! They have got to vote, life doesn’t just tick away, and there are decisions in motion that affect all of our lives.

Paul:We also hope to get some people into this theatre who perhaps wouldn’t go to a venue like this; get them in, show them a good show, give them everything Conrad’s just said and hopefully they’ll think ‘this theatre stuff’s alright, I didn’t think it was for people like me!’ Maybe then they’ll end up coming back and watching another show, and generally getting more involved with that side of the arts.

No Milk For The Foxes is presented as part of Camden People’s Theatre’s  ‘The State We’re In’ Festival 22nd April- 9th May. Click here to book tickets.

 

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