INTERVIEW: MC Zani | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Fuel Theatre’s latest physical theatre show The Spalding Suite has been inspired by the underground British basketball scene. That might seem unlikely, but it’s given the innovative company the chance to stretch the limits of their physicality and incorporate a range of different styles and mediums into the production, making The Spalding Suite a must-see, even for theatre sceptics.

Seen from a British perspective, the show aims to get to the heart and soul of the fast-paced, gravity-defying sport and delves into the dreams of those who play it. Award-winning beat boxer MC Zani is providing the sounds for the show, which already incorporates hip hop and poetry, to add an extra live and dynamic dimension to the production.

Ahead of the performance of The Spalding Suite at Stockton’s Arc next week, I talked to MC Zani about his involvement in the project, his relationship to basketball and being one of the best beat boxers in the country. Images: Helen Maybanks.

How did you come to be involved with The Spalding Suite?

I came on board in early March; I actually play basketball with Jason Yorke who plays Yawo and Eric Lau who has made the beats. Eric said to me he’s working on this new project and they are looking for a beatboxer. I then met with Benji Reid (the director) and that was how it came into fruition.

The show mostly revolves around the culture of basketball; is this something that attracted you to the production itself?

Yes definitely, I love basketball and used to play it growing up as a kid so that helped me make a decision going for the role.

What exactly is your main role in The Spalding Suite?

Basically I provide all the sound FX and beats, for example instead of a ball being bounced I am creating the sound, and also the sounds of people moving, dancing, crying, and also actual drum beats and rhythms.

Are there other beatboxers involved in the show that you’re working alongside?

Just me!

Spalding Suite 2 c Helen Maybanks

“Theatre crowds are more intimate and attentive and they really pay attention to every detail”

Is this your first time in a stage production? If so, how does it compare to being a touring musician?

It’s not my first stage production, I have done smaller shows but none to this scale. In some aspects it is very different from touring as a musician. One big difference is the crowds, as I am used to a club/concert or festival environment with people dancing or mosh pitting. Theatre crowds are more intimate and attentive and they really pay attention to every detail.

Do you think The Spalding Suite will help to make the stage to appeal to a wider audience who might not be tempted to see a dance performance before?

Yes most definitely, there is something for everyone in this show. From comedy, dance, beatboxing, poetry, and some very emotional scenes. It can appeal to such a wide demographic, which I think is its USP.

You’re only 29 but you’ve been beatboxing for over ten years; how did you first get into beatboxing and what inspired you to make a career out of it?

I have always had a love for music as my dad was a musician so there was always music playing around the house, and I used to play the drums so I already had the natural sense on rhythm. But it wasn’t until I was 14 when I discovered beatboxing. I first heard Rahzel who was a beatboxer for The Roots; he blew my mind away at the time and I started beatboxing as a hobby. I started incorporating it on a pirate radio station I used to MC on and small local clubs, before I knew it I was being asked to do solo beatbox shows. That’s when I knew this is what I wanted to do.

You’re also a lead tutor at the Battersea Arts Centre’s BAC Beatbox Academy; what would you say to anyone who might be thinking about taking up beatboxing, either as a hobby or a career?

I think perseverance and dedication are key. You really have to know what it is you want to do and become a master of your craft. Find your inner talent and skill, which could take months or even years but when you do you really have to want it and believe you can achieve it. Aim high and don’t let anyone tell you different. That’s what I believe otherwise you will just settle for less.

The Spalding Suite comes to Stockton’s Arc on Tuesday 12th May.

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