Beastie Boys Musical Is A Great Excuse To Paaaarrrrtaay

Licensed To Ill, Camden People's Theatre ★★★★☆

By Rosalind Stone Last edited 34 months ago
Beastie Boys Musical Is A Great Excuse To Paaaarrrrtaay Licensed To Ill, Camden People's Theatre 4
Photo by Joe Twigg

Suspend your disbelief on the way in, and you’ll fall instantly in love with Licenced To Ill. This homage to the Beastie Boys by Simon Maeder (Mike D), and Adam El Hagar (MCA, or Adam Yauch), with Daniel Foxsmith (AdRock) and Tope Mikun (as every DJ to collaborate with the Boys) is incredibly enterprising.

Buildings, cars, pulsating record players and querulous parents are all pantomimed with a jerky, livin' on a prayer canniness that hits (or at least samples) all the right notes. The ensemble’s resourceful physical approach demonstrates a fierce spirit of exploratory ingenuity, much like the hip hop genre's own baby steps.

This cast know their music, and the types, and stereotypes, that populate the industry inside out. When the Boys challenge Def Jam over his reluctance to pay them and he gloats that they’re too broke to hire a lawyer, they whip out their privileged New-York-Jewish backgrounds, and chime in cringingly instinctive unison, "my uncle's a lawyer!"

They’re all hardwired with so much love for the Beastie Boys and belief in their storytelling that they can even weather technical failure. The malfunctioning of the decks when Mix Master Mike arrives at a DJ audition gives rise to a perfectly-pitched interlude of improvised small-talk between Mikun and Maeder. Surprisingly, no one in this Camden People's Theatre audience is calling from Sacramento, but the lyric-reference gets one of very many laughs.

Since Yauch’s death from cancer in 2012, court battles have been won and lost over the use of the Beastie Boys’ music in advertising. This production brilliantly captures a sense of commercialisation in its final stages. After the album Licenced to Ill launched in 1986, Rolling Stone iconised the Beastie Boys with a cover proclaiming, "Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece”. Today, four idiot-savants invite us to live one: an endeavour where infectious enthusiasm conquers all.

Licensed To Ill is on at Camden People's Theatre until 12 December. Tickets £12 (£10 concessions). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 07 December 2015