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Conrad Murray and Paul Cree (Beats and Element) talk about their new show High Rise eState of Mind

High Rise eState of Mind is a genre busting, time warping, hip hop theatre piece, incorporating rap, beats and movement, which weaves a story that occurs in the present day and on a future estate. Founders of Beats and Element , a hip-hop beat driven and political performance collective, Paul Cree and Conrad Murray, draw on their backgrounds and personal experiences to bring a new show that provides an uncompromising look at class issues surrounding the housing crisis and what it means to be a young person living in urban areas today.

Who are Beats and Element? You call yourselves a political, performance collective. What does this mean to you and how are you hoping to make a change?

Conrad: We create performance in our creative lexicon-mainly rap- with beatbox and samples. We also incorporate hip hop and street culture into our aesthetic. I think this makes the form and style political, as you have marginalised bodies, voices and points of view onstage. We work with this sense of politics further by exploring themes of working class lives. So the work is political in many ways.

Paul: Both myself and Conrad have a shared interest in politics and dystopian style novels, we often talk about these things at length, this inevitably bleeds out into the work. We also have backgrounds in MCing and Hip Hop in general. We use these skills to tell our stories, in our own way, which is often lacking on the stage and in screen. This simple fact alone is in itself political.

Can you tell us a bit about your current work, High Rise eState of Mind, what it is and where we can see it?

Conrad: The show is about class and the environments that we live. To what extent are we shaped by them, and what to they do to our relationships and minds? We chose to explore this theme through a couple, and how their housing environment ruins their relationship. They are living in a high rise where different classes live on different levels. This was inspired by Ballard’s book ‘High Rise’. Throughout the piece, there are short spoken word pieces about our own personal stories relating to housing. I focused on the estates where I have lived.

Paul: There are questions we explore throughout the piece, using the characters, such as; what can we really expect from our living environments, should we be constantly pushing to improve our material circumstances, what is the cost of this or should we be content with what we have? I myself didn’t grow up on an estate, however, having left home at 21 and generally having to work in low paid jobs, I’ve wound up changing address 17 times in 15 years, often living in insecure tenancies, paying what are really extortionate amounts of money to landlords, who have multiple properties and don’t live in the UK. I’ve lived in 3 or 4 ex council priorities where this has been the case, ultimately this leaves me with the feeling that nowhere ever really feels like home and I’m often resentful.

After such successes of No Milk For The Foxes, Denmarked and Frankenstein, what keeps you making work together?

Conrad: I keep making work because I have a lot of stories to tell, which I think are

Paul: For us I feel there’s a place for us in all of this and we’re only just getting going! It’s also a lot of fun, of course.

Your work encompasses a unique blend of Hip hop, Beatbox, movement and spoken word. How does this all mould together on stage?

Conrad: I try and fuse it together like music, so that it can feel as seamless as possible. Even when there is no music and it’s spoken word, the rhythm of the piece is relentless and drives forward. High Rise eState of Mind is filled with themes of the class system and the housing crisis.

Paul: A lot of hard work and trial and error.

What was your impetus to make work surrounding these values?

Conrad: I’ve grow up working class and I want to tell my story. I’ve been looked after by social services, I’ve been on the at risk register, my dad was in jail, I’ve had a plethora of things that I believe can help create conversations around class and the way society forgets those it perceives to be at the bottom. I also believe that everyone is subject to a massive housing problem at the moment, and it is fucking up people’s lives.

The show is humorous, but it also has a darker side and a factual side too. Can you explain how you achieve this balance?

Conrad: Life is like that right? I laughed hard at my Grandmas funeral. There is something natural and beautiful about it. There is humour in everything. I’m also influenced by classic writers such as Pinter and Galton and Simpson, who had that dark and light tone.

Young people are often at the heart of the work you make. Why do you believe this is important?

Conrad: Young people are the future. They will be the ones driving change. This is always the way, and the natural order of things. I also believe that people’s autonomy has been slowly taken away and young people are finding it harder and harder to feel what being grown up might feel like, in regards to choosing a home or surroundings.

The show will run at Camden People’s Theatre for The Camden Roar Festival from 7 - 11 May, with a one off performance on 4th May at Strike a Light Festival in Gloucester. This project is produced by Strike A Light and co-commissioned by Strike A Light, GL4 Festival, Battersea Arts Centre and Camden People's Theatre.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★  'High Rise Estate of Mind is an energetic, reflective, daring, compelling and convincing production' - Get the chance

★ ★ ★ ★  'The mission of the Homegrown festival is to amplify “young and underrepresented voices” and this show has them booming around the four corners of your mind.' -  Morning Star

High Rise eState of Mind
Tue 7 - Sat 11 May, 21:00
Press night Thu 6 May
at Camden People's Theatre
Info and tickets: www.cptheatre.co.uk