There’s always a festival vibe at BAC; a sense that young talent is nestling in every nook and cranny and that everyone, if they’ve got something to say, is welcome. Homegrown Festival: Occupy is the manifestation of that feeling. It is a four-week festival showcasing a kaleidoscope of theatre as well as gigs, games, rap and art installations, and it works hard to dig out untold stories.
Four Women (★★★☆☆) and Frankenstein (★★★★★) are two Homegrown highlights. Both have a giddy sense of relief about them, the feeling of once-hidden talent let free from a tightly corked bottle. They’re distinctive shows, full of energy and personality, that will challenge your preconceptions and, in the case of Frankenstein, blow your mind.
Dylema is a performance poet, singer and out-and-out polymath. She is a shapeshifter, able to move between numerous personas and performance genres with barely a flicker. Her one-woman show (not counting the musicians playing at the side of the stage) tells the story of a Nigerian women and her daughter as they move from Lagos to London and struggle to assimilate. It is a shimmering blur of songs, spoken word and standup. There’s very little shape to the script and a slapdash feel to the entire production, but perhaps that’s OK. Perhaps that’s just Dylema.
She gives a chameleon-like performance but there is something solid at the heart of Four Women; a gleaming, flinty sense of self that will not budge. As Dylema shifts from playing mother to daughter and finally herself, layers of costume and obfuscation are stripped away. Finally Dylema simply recites her poetry and describes the battle to find oneself in a country that will “name you, if you do not name yourself”. What a talent she is, utterly herself in the spotlight.
There’s a bit of shapeshifting in Frankenstein, too. The Beatbox Academy is a collective born from the BAC with members ranging from nine to 29 years old. Before the show begins, the younger members are given their moment in the spotlight. They look so sweet, so small, so unassuming – and then they open their mouths. The talent on display is staggering but it is the performers’ confidence and joy that will make your night.
The main event uses Shelley’s Frankenstein as the loosest of frameworks to explore issues of identity, body image and social media. It’s a clever hook: how to develop a solid sense of self in a world saturated by social media? But the story is secondary to the personalities and talent. The stark set – little more than a series of stools and hanging lightbulbs – is accented brilliantly by Sherry Coenen’s atmospheric lighting. Shadows dance across the walls and emphasise the feeling that these six performers are so much more than the sum of their parts.
There are moments of such musical magnitude, when the space throbs with unimaginably complex harmonies and beats, it beggars belief. Could this really be just six people with microphones? Yet there’s also a sense of humility. There seems to be something about beatboxing that inspires the individual while encouraging mutual respect and a rock-solid feeling of community. How’s that for inspiration?