Angry about getting people like James Corden as your theatre fix? The legends that are Paul Cree and Conrad Murray aka Beats & Elements feel you. Here, they talk to us about putting their show, No Milk for The Foxes online, (almost) kicking in people’s doors and why drama is fundamental in helping kids staying out of trouble.
Beats & Elements, otherwise known as Paul Cree and Conrad Murray (not to be confused with his unfortunate namesake, Michael Jackson’s doctor) are both rappers, beatboxers and theatre makers. Their new show, No Milk for The Foxes, takes place in the staffroom of a warehouse where Cree and Murray play security guards (on zero hour contracts) doing a nightshift. They discuss problems in their personal and professional lives; society’s ills during David Cameron’s eventful tenure as Prime Minister; unions and workers’ rights; class divides and more in a one-hour show, with each point punctuated by a few verses of thoughtful beatbox-fused rap.
Kicking off our conversation, Cree tells me where the pair met: “Battersea Arts Centre … Con was a bit of a legend at BAC.” Unfortunately Murray didn’t have as much admiration for his friend and colleague when first hearing about him, even though people had told him that they’d get on because they’re quite similar. “Sounds like a dickhead, I don’t ever want to meet this guy,” Murray chimes in. They exchanged a mixtape and the rest, as they say, is history.
Beats & Elements’ Camden People’s Theatre production of No Milk for The Foxes, was filmed in 2015. I curiously ask why they decided to release it now and it is obvious that they weren’t happy with the sort of shows that were being put ‘out there’. For Murray, people were “getting hyped up” about shows “with the same kind of posh twats” in them. “We’re all feeling down right now so we’re going to enlighten you and make you cheer up by watching James Corden. I’m like JAMES CORDEN? That guy makes me pissed off, man. I’m not happy about this.” The beatboxer and Artistic Director explains that this shows “more millionaires” on screen and that the “weirder shows, the more lowkey shows” could be lost.
“Fortunately for us, ‘Con’ has always been a big advocate of documenting things, archiving stuff… it’s important… even if it’s as a record of what you’ve done,” Cree compliments his friend. But they had some issues with getting the footage from the videographer they paid to film their show and it inevitably took four years. Murray becomes animated when Cree brings this up. “The maniac guy that filmed it… paid him his money right… he refused to give it back, it’s my artwork… I had to be like listen bruv, are you actually going to piss me off like this? Are you actually going to try and mess with my paper?” This ended up going so far as to result in Murray’s friends offering to kick the videographer’s door in and retrieve the SD card that way. But cooler heads prevailed: “nah nah calm it down… we’re trying to make it big in this theatre world we can’t be doing this”.
With digital theatre increasingly becoming a necessity, I worry that shows won’t ‘hit home’ anymore. In the same way that stand-up comedy is funnier in person and a football match is more engaging if you’re in the stadium, theatre is infinitely more impactful in person. Cree understands where I’m coming from, “I was watching football on the weekend… you can pipe in the crowd noise but it’s not the same… there’s nothing better than being part of the audience.” Murray continues: “I don’t know maybe that detracts but for me it kind of just gives you the vibe”.
The show makes a point of discussing drama lessons for the working class and Murray tells me that he thinks it could help young people stay out of trouble. “Of course, kids are angrier and frustrated, because they don’t have any outlets … most kids never get to go to the theatre. Never get to see any art… no shit like that, and again it’s kind of like what do they expect us to become?” Cree picks up the baton by talking about the importance of introducing young people to The Bard. “These are great pieces of art and work and why would you want to deprive young working-class kids of those? His colleague definitely agrees: “There are many universal truths that can be found in them pieces of work.”
Beats & Elements evidently consists of two guys completely comfortable in themselves, know what they want and can do and are confident enough to express themselves. I recommend watching their show No Milk for The Foxes on YouTube for an hour of funny and politically-charged insight into the lives of a demographic that’s underrepresented in theatre.
No Milk for The Foxes is online until July 14th. To watch the show, visit the YouTube link here.