Image credit: Joyce Nicholls
The build up to general election has struck a chord with many. Everyone seems to have an opinion – even if it’s one of confusion. Paul Cree and Conrad “Con” Murray of Beats + Elements have partnered with Camden People’s Theatre (CPT) and created one of three political – related shows in honour of the upcoming election.
Their show; No milk for the Foxes is centred around two security guards who are forced work on zero hour contracts. Spoken word, rap and beat-box are used to move the story forward described as “ hip hop theatre event about class, status and milk..”
Murray and Cree met as participants of the Young people’s programme at Battersea Arts Centre in 2010. “We worked on a project together and realised we shared a love for music and hip hop” Cree began. Since then, they have worked together and got involved with a number of projects and programmes linked to their cause before falling into the partnership with the CPT quite on this project quite easily. I was keen to know where their interest in politics originated.
With the concept for No Milk first airing two years ago; Cree explained “We wanted to touch upon things that were bugging us whilst representing working class people on stage.” If you think, that these guys are just in it to rant and make a statement; you’re wrong! “We did more than our fair share of research – but it didn’t feel like it” He began. “We tend to look up articles and send political related links to one another in our free time – so we were well prepared for this process.” The passion and enthusiasm from Cree and Murray demonstrated in our conversation could be down to the fact so much of themselves can be found within the play.
“The character I play, for example was raised on a council estate raps and does beat-box – like myself” Cree confirmed. “When it comes to the ins and outs of the – we understand it all from the characters – cos they’re based on people we know and experiences. Consequently, we got to show the flaws and negatives in a way that isn’t mockery which makes for an honest adaptation.”
We conversed about our ideal outcomes of this election and who we are for and against with regards to policies and party leaders took place. It wasn’t long before things got radical “Being under this current government; society has changed and become more greedy – in a dog eat dog way. It’s angered me and the themes and through the events in this play; I’ve done something about it.” Not to get it twisted, “There are funny parts to this show as well” explained Murray, “but it makes it somewhat bittersweet”.
What’s appealing about Cree and Murray is their desire to reach out to young people about politics and the arts. They’ve visited a number of Youth groups proximity of the CPT to teach rapping and beat boxing. “A lot of these youngsters are coming to see the performance and we want them to enjoy what they see, feel involved and think that this is a place they can come to.” Like politics, folks can feel excluded from theatre – thinking that it’s exclusive. “When it comes to things I’ve done; I think (in terms of audiences) ‘will mates want to come here’.” The fact that their friends have gone on to see other things in theatre proves that they’re opening doors to ensure so that non-regular theatre goers can have the chance to experience something they may not have done so otherwise.
Some would say that the arts has a level of influence through this election period. “People get bored and turned off by politics; mainly because they don’t understand it or think it’s relevant.” Murray went on to say that theatre can be presented in so many different forms that a variety of audiences can be conveyed in different ways. “What we see in the TV and media isn’t necessarily what the public needs to hear so to have arts created by the people for the people – instead of preaching to the converted and relating to politics is very important.” The pair continued to discuss the importance of education about politics to get the general public clued up before voting – but alas, as the time of a party representative’s response in a debate runs out; so has my word count.
To find out more about Cree, Murray and No Milk (including show dates and contact details) check out their facebook or twitter pages. No Milk for the Foxes is on at the Camden People’s Theatre 22 April – 9 May.