Ned Campbell on Beats at King’s Head Theatre

Actor Ned Campbell brings his production of Scottish playwright Kieran Hurley’ Beats back to the Kings Head Theatre for a two week run following a sold-out, one-night-only in February.

The play follows Johnno McCreadie through one night as he makes his way to his first illegal rave on the outskirts of his suburban, Scottish town in the early 90s. The show blends themes of youth, community, protest, working class experience and more – all set to a pulsing rave soundtrack performed by a live, onstage DJ.

It’s the show’s first run on a London stage since a short run at Soho Theatre in its original tour with Kieran in the early 2010s. Ahead of opening, Campbell took some time out to tell us about the show.

Q&A with Ned Campbell

What can you tell us about Beats?

Where to begin… BEATS is a pulsating, magnetic whirlwind of both musical and lyrical dynamism centred around the power of gathered youth under the backdrop and toil of the criminal justice act which was passed in 1994. But underneath it all it is just an honest and moving story about a teenage boy figuring out his own personal existence and belonging at a time of deep oppression and disregard.

When did you first become aware of the play – and what was it that attracted you to starring and directing in it?

I feel like this beautiful piece has popped into my life at various stages, however it wasn’t until summer last year when I was in Scotland that I finally got the chance to properly consume the whole thing and WOW just WOW… Actors, artists, musicians, all creatives really will always have moments in their life where they stumble across creations of work where they just get an electric impulse of whatever it takes. I have to make this happen and reading BEATS for me was one of those moments.

The prospect of directing oneself in their own work especially in something that had already been highly acclaimed was terrifying but I knew I had a vision for how I wanted to perform it and in bringing something original for people to see I guess I just had to be brave and hope that what I was doing would work!

Photo: Josh Mcclure

How important was the musical aspect of the show?

The music is everything in the show, it is the heartbeat and the glue that binds the whole piece together; I like to see the play as more of a duet than a solo, as it is a constant interchanging dialogue between the DJ and performer.

I have been introduced to a whole world of music in creating the show which has been really quite enlightening and having the sensationally talented Tom Snell by my side producing this magnetic domineering wave of sound there really is something for all audiences to appreciate.

How does it feel to be bringing the show back to Kings Head Theatre after your previous sold-out performance?

It is just a dream come true really… I felt so lucky and honoured that I got to perform it at the beginning of the year to a sold out audience but when the theatre turned round to me and said they were going to program the show for a run I did slightly have to pinch myself for a moment… I guess opportunities like this don’t come very often in a performer’s life so I just have to take it all in my stride and hope more people can experience it. There is also so much more I want to do with the show as everytime I perform it or even just read it I learn, discover and enjoy something new from Kieran’s sublime writing.

What do you have planned next?

Gosh the terrifying anticipation of what next… I guess not to be too cryptic, things are moving in the right direction at the moment which is great. I try not to plan or predict things too much but rather just feel and enjoy what’s going on right now. The process of making this show happen has given me a huge amount of confidence and understanding into what I am capable of doing but more importantly the knowledge that in this industry you do just have to put yourself out there and make things happen.

Beats is at King’s Head Theatre from 18 to 27 April 2024