Meet Con­rad Mur­ray, the vis­ion­ary cre­at­or of “Pied Piper,” which will be show­cased at Bat­ter­sea Arts Centre from Octo­ber 24th — 28th. We delve into the inspir­a­tion behind this innov­at­ive hip hop music­al based on the medi­ev­al fairy-tale. He shares insights into the unique cre­at­ive pro­cess that involves beat­box­ers and musi­cians in the cast, dis­tin­guish­ing “Pied Piper” from his pre­vi­ous work, “Franken­stein: How to Make a Mon­ster.” We explore the thought-pro­vok­ing themes addressed in the play and the elec­tri­fy­ing exper­i­ence it prom­ises to offer the audi­ence. Mur­ray’s com­mit­ment to involving the loc­al com­munity and his per­son­al vis­ion for the pro­duc­tion add depth to our con­ver­sa­tion. As we anti­cip­ate the world première of “Pied Piper,” Mur­ray reflects on the influ­ence of excep­tion­al reviews, the sig­ni­fic­ance of sup­port from found­a­tions and indi­vidu­als, and the power­ful mes­sages and emo­tions he hopes the audi­ence will take away from this remark­able the­at­ric­al jour­ney.

What inspired you to cre­ate “Pied Piper,” a hip hop music­al based on the medi­ev­al fairy-tale?

The story of the Pied Piper was music based, and talks about the threat of the artist, and how they can chal­lenge soci­ety. It felt like a great fit for a hip hop show! Plus, it seemed suit­able for a fam­ily show.

Can you tell us about the cre­at­ive pro­cess behind the pro­duc­tion, espe­cially with the involve­ment of beat­box­ers and musi­cians in the cast?

Me and the pro­du­cer of Franken­stein, Lara Taylor, wanted to come up with a new idea and chal­lenge ourselves to improve on what we have done before. So we star­ted to devel­op the story and do work­shops along with Lakeisha Lynch Stevens with young people to test stuff out.
I wanted to put togeth­er a fant­ast­ic cast of tal­ents and char­ac­ters. Some were already in the Academy, and oth­ers have been developed through the Academy. In this way, we have cre­ated a super team who jam and write togeth­er. It’s been a few years now, so people have grown up and developed.
We worked as a team to explore the themes and music­al ideas through work­shops and jams. Every­one was beat­box­ing, jam­ming , rap­ping and singing. After a few weeks work­ing togeth­er, I col­lated the mater­i­al and star­ted to cre­ate a script with the music and ideas that we explored.

How does “Pied Piper” dif­fer from your pre­vi­ous work, “Franken­stein: How to Make a Mon­ster,” in terms of theme and style?

Franken­stein was epis­od­ic, each scene told its own story and cre­ated a mood and aes­thet­ic. We used themes from the ori­gin­al Mary Shel­ley book to cre­ate our own response. It was like a live the­at­ric­al album in a way.
With Pied Piper, we aimed to tell a nar­rat­ive story where all the scenes linked to tell a story, one that could be com­mu­nic­ated to fam­il­ies of all ages. It is a dif­fer­ent show, and in many ways a lot more ambi­tious.
I teamed up with Ria Parry who I have worked with before on a hip hop theatre solo show Den­Marked, to help deliv­er this vis­ion of amaz­ing music and visu­al but also a strong story. In Franken­stein, it was pretty much myself and the cast cre­at­ing the whole aes­thet­ic jour­ney of the piece.

Tell us about the issues the play addresses? How did you come up with the idea of inter­twin­ing these ele­ments with the clas­sic Pied Piper story?

We wanted to address greed, cap­it­al­ism , the power of art and chal­len­ging of estab­lished ideas. These were the ideas that we found were in the ori­gin­al ver­sion, and that we were pas­sion­ate about explor­ing today, in our work.
The world is chan­ging fast, and people need to feel empowered to give their energy and ideas to take the lead and embrace change.

There is a theme with­in the Pied Piper, which we pushed a lot more, that says that young people have power. After all, in the story, the Piper even­tu­ally inflicts his utmost revenge by tak­ing the most prized pos­ses­sion — the chil­dren.

What kind of exper­i­ence can the audi­ence expect from “Pied Piper”? How does it stand out as a unique and elec­tri­fy­ing night of vocal wiz­ardry?

The show fea­tures amaz­ing MC’s, R&B vocals and incred­ible beat­box­ing from some of the best beat­box­ers in the world. It’s going to feel some­where between a gig, a music­al and an open mic night at the same time. Every single note and sound you hear will be from the human voice.

photo cred­it — Nath­an Eaton-Baudains

We see that the loc­al com­munity also has spe­cial guest per­form­ances. How import­ant was it for you to involve the com­munity in the pro­duc­tion, and what impact did it have on the play?

As our team is the Beat­box Academy it would feel redund­ant to cre­ate a per­form­ance that just shows off the best tal­ents that we have in the com­pany. We wanted to show off the Beat­box Academy as a whole. The tal­ents are var­ied, and every­one has inter­est­ing sounds and per­form­ances to give with­in the Academy- and around the coun­try. So we will use our plat­form to high­light oth­er per­formers and artists wherever the show goes. .

As the writer, com­poser, and music­ally dir­ec­ted, can you tell us about your per­son­al vis­ion and object­ives for “Pied Piper” and how it trans­lates into the final per­form­ance?

I know that the BAC Beat­box Academy can cre­ate amaz­ing sounds and mind-blow­ing music. Over 15 years we have developed a pro­cess and sys­tem to help devel­op and cre­ate the most weird and won­der­ful exper­i­ment­al sounds. We do that week in, week out.
With Piper, we wanted to cre­ate some­thing where we could devel­op and show off oth­er aspects — dance, story, char­ac­ters. This meant that I had to make sure that the script and story allows for these things to hap­pen. The over­all show, and the object­ives of the show- and the devel­op­ment of the per­formers and the academy are just as import­ant to me.
The com­munity aspect has been really pushed and exper­i­mented with in this show, in a way that is far more ambi­tious. We have integ­rated the com­munity chor­us with­in part of the story and are work­ing with them before the show, on themes and ideas to integ­rate into the show.

“Franken­stein: How to Make a Mon­ster” received excep­tion­al reviews. Does this add any pres­sure or excite­ment as you approach the world première of “Pied Piper”?

In a way it does — because there will be expect­a­tions. But I know that I just have to explore and cre­ate the show I want to cre­ate, and review­ers will say what they have to say, but the 4/5‑year pro­cess cre­at­ing this has already been fruit­ful and we have been able to learn from.
You can’t con­trol what oth­er people say about your work — you just have to feel it and do what you want to do and say what you want to say.

The play is sup­por­ted by vari­ous found­a­tions and indi­vidu­als. How has this sup­port influ­enced the devel­op­ment and scope of “Pied Piper”?

The sup­port is everything. Bat­ter­sea Arts Centre is a play­ground for artists, and although things can get dif­fi­cult with­in the cur­rent cli­mate (fund­ing cuts), the fact that we are able to exist is a mir­acle. The organ­iz­a­tions – includ­ing Arcade, Gul­ben­ki­an and indi­vidu­als are allow­ing a group of excit­ing per­formers and artists a chance to pro­gress and put a per­spect­ive out there in the world, and that is pretty spe­cial.

Finally, what mes­sage or emo­tions do you hope the audi­ence will take away from “Pied Piper,” and what impact do you anti­cip­ate it hav­ing on the com­munity and soci­ety as a whole?

Firstly, I want every­one to have a great time and enjoy the beats and vibes.
Through­out the per­form­ance, I hope that the audi­ence thinks about chal­len­ging the estab­lish­ment and how power­ful our voices really can be, espe­cially when we work togeth­er.
I hope that by watch­ing us, people are inspired to be cre­at­ive, and can see the per­formers onstage — Black, White, Asi­an , young, work­ing class and super tal­en­ted and see them­selves.
I also hope that they are inter­ested enough to my pre­vi­ous book, the first book on hip hop theatre – Mak­ing hip hop theatre (with Katie Beswick) , which doc­u­ments my pro­cess and gives ideas on how to cre­ate yourselves, and also the script of the Pied Piper both pub­lished by Meth­uen Drama.

‘Pied Piper’ will debut at the Bat­ter­sea Arts Centre 24th- 28th Octo­ber. 

Tick­ets avail­able HERE

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.