When Simon Maeder and Adam El Hagar came up with the idea to create a stage show about punk turned hip-hop group; The Beastie Boys; they had no idea that the anticipation and excitement for the fun-filled, jam packed show would be so high.
“We were flyering in the street one day and started rapping to people. We thought that rap could be a good way to sell a theatre show. After Simon suggested we do the Beastie Boys – we did some research, realised how cool and fun they were and went from there.” Began Al Hagar. Two years later; Licensed-to-Ill – named after the Beasties debut album came into being.
The “unofficial, biographical Hip hop history tour” features a live DJ, some “very entertaining puppets” and is jam packed with pranks, jokes and audience participation. Some have described it as a musical – but both Maeder and El Hagar were quick to dispute that label. “It’s a theatre show about musicians that is going to have music in it. The show is about their lives and processes…I don’t think you can describe it as a musical because there is no bursting into song”
“The songs and music are in context of the time and the Beasties career – the music is fitting but I definitely wouldn’t describe the show as a musical.”
When asked how they would describe the show, each cast members reply were similar – showing the unity and passion for the project and the group at the centre of the show.
“It’s a show about three men changing music over thirty years” continued Dan Fox – the actor who portrays Ad Rock. Maeder and Al Hager portray the remaining group members MCA and Mike B. Portraying a real-life person in any form of performance can be difficult so I was keen to know how the guys handled the show being an unofficial or unlicensed piece, but was surprised at the response and reasons for giving it that status.
“The first thing we did after coming up with the idea was to call LA and speak to the Beastie Boys’ management team. They’ve been involved in the process the whole time and were always co-operative. It’s just that they never gave the show it’s official endorsement.” Al Hagar began.
“The way we’ve handled things has all been above board. We’ve gone through the proper channels and the management team were cool about it and gave feedback after they saw the show. We wanted to use that word unauthorised because we’re not carrying their ‘stamp’”, Meader concluded.
All members of the cast – including the live DJ – have a range of experience in acting, devising and live performance. It was made clear that everything about and in the show suited their own backgrounds, interests and experience perfectly.
“The show is definitely a reflection of the Beasties and how they were. If this was a show about Simon and Garfunkel, for example; there would be a completely different vibe.” It is no secret that the Beastie Boys were known for being pranksters. “They were so unique and original in their sense of humour – so we’ve tried to implement that and make it accessible to the audiences on a theatrical, energetic level.”
How do the lads want audiences to think after seeing the show?
“I want them to feel energised, and hope they learn something about the history of the Beastie Boys and hip hop”
“They’ll definitely have a good time. There’s enough for casual fans of hip hop but also enough depth about the band for those hardcore Beastie fans – which is one of the greatest things about it”.
Licensed To Ill plays at the Camden People’s Theatre 23 November to 12 December.