On top of the official thematic strands present at each year's Fringe, certain trends tend to emerge organically. Some art forms fall out of favour while others become suddenly fashionable, certain topics are the talk of the town while others find themselves echoing around half-empty rooms. Each year sees some combination of culture, circumstance and coincidence produce a handful of styles, subjects and forms that come to define that particular Fringe.
Environmental concerns and mental health, as well as the places where the two intersect, have appeared as some of the hot topics of this year's festival, while beatbox has emerged triumphantly as the medium of choice: pushing back against expectations with an eclectic mix of shows that use it to completely different, but equally effective, purposes.
Remixing Victorian classics and Hollywood blockbusters alike, blending their beats with tap dancers and fantasy tales, turning them into everything from club-ready dance tracks to kid-friendly melodies - these Fringe shows make for an ideal Beatbox 101, highlighting the breadth and depth of an often overlooked art form.
Noise Boys, Assembly George Square, Until 25 August
"The slam of tap shoe on wood, the buzz of pursed lips against microphone and the deep pulse of deft fingers plucking at strings – these boys know how to make a noise worth listening to. Four tap dancers, two beatboxers and two musicians, each with top notch credentials, have been recruited for this show. They’re the ‘Boys’ of the title, with wonderful rapper/narrator RoxXxan the lone female.
Written by Rob Broderick (aka Abandoman) and choreographed by Tap Dogs’ Douglas Mills, Noise Boys has a pedigree so fine, it could bark."
Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster, Traverse Theatre, Until 25 August
"It’s not often that a piece of theatre made by and with young people in their teens takes centre stage at the Traverse during the Fringe, and scores a massive hit with both audiences and critics.That’s what has happened during this year’s Festival, though, to this thrilling show from the Beatbox Academy at Battersea Arts Centre, which takes Mary Shelley’s great 1818 science-fiction novel, and delivers a powerful 70-minute version of it using nothing but a bare stage, six brilliant young performers who sing and beatbox like young gods, terrific lighting design by Sherry Coenen, and outstanding choreography and co-direction from Conrad Murray and David Cumming.
What Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster offers is neither a literal retelling of the story, nor an effort to update it to our own age of monsters created by misplaced human ingenuity. Instead, it’s more like a beatbox opera, or what the company call “a live concept album”, that captures the mood and meaning of the story – the arrogance, the fear, the pain of exclusion suffered by the monster – through unbelievably rich and varied sound and songs, and striking visual images created only with the performers’ bodies."
SK Shlomo: Surrender, Underbelly – Cowgate, Until 23 August
"It’s a treat to watch SK Shlomo close-up, taking our oohs, aahs, and roars and brilliantly making dance music out of them on the modest machine he calls The Beast.
In his new show, Surrender, he charts his story from the days when he joined the bellydancers at his Iraqi Jewish grandparents’ home, the only child of an immigrant family at an English primary school. His parents’ gift of a drum kit foreshadowed a career as record-breaking beatboxer and world looping champion who has worked with Ed Sheeran and Bjork."
Boar, Pleasance Courtyard, Until 25 August
"On one level, Lewis Doherty’s one-man show Boar is a simple slice of popular entertainment, a late-night, pints-in, see-what’s-on-the-blackboard-and-take-a-chance kind of a Fringe show.
What Nottingham’s Doherty does is extraordinary, the entirely believable recreation of a big-budget Hollywood action film using just his facility for accents, a beatboxer’s ability to create a wide palette of audio special effects with only his voice, and a negligible number of props; in this case a low stool and two small red lights nestled in each of his palms. Amid the convincingly created swordplay, horseback chases and a truly shudder-inducing dragon, who is given realistic life through a darkened stage and the eerily lifelike ‘blink’ of Doherty’s palms, it’s also a very funny piece of work."
Bonus Round: Kids Shows
Two of the above acts also have shows aimed at little ones, giving parents the chance to introduce their offspring to the wonderful world of beatbox at an age when making weird noises with your face is already considered a matter of the utmost importance. Sonic superhero SK Shlomo offered kids the chance to become his sidekick with his now-finished Shlomo's Beatbox Adventure for Kids, while Noise Boys Hobbit and Jarred Christmas are still serving up child-friendly beatbox comedy with Jarred Christmas and Hobbit: The Mighty Kids Beatbox Comedy Show, on at Assmebly Rooms until 24 August.