HOME Theatre, Manchester; Wednesday 4th September, 2019
It started with a buzz – a league of extraordinary femmes, eight queen bees emerging from their hives with a simple but evocative mantra: activate, pollinate, liberate.
Make way for the matriarchy they say, this is the Hive City Legacy: a super-high-energy hour of story-telling, singing, dancing, aerial acrobatics – and a whole lot more.
Written and developed by the same creative team behind hit 2017 show Hot Brown Honey, Hive City Legacy is a powerful cabaret-style outpouring of femme-centric observation and deliberation – all expressed through fine theatrical artistry.
The eight performers pitch in equally with their various expressive talents but the cabaret-inspired delivery seems to sit alongside a very slight and subtle underlying plot – one which sees Farrell Cox appearing to take on a central role as a bee undergoing a transformation, or perhaps an education, or maybe even both?
Cox starts the show much like an inquisitive and curious child, hopping around the hexagonal architecture of the hive, chasing spotlights for fun, sneakily opening up six-sided boxes which seem to hint at something extraordinary within. But by the end of the show she definitely appears to have undergone liberation, seemingly ready to create her own legacy in the hive.
The activation and pollination of Farrell Cox’s character is driven by enlightening encounters with others emerging from within the hive. The rest of the cast deliver short stories: deep, ponderous monologues about being stared at for looking different; powerful dance scenes that recreate office christmas parties; even an extraordinary duet of stunning aerial acrobatics. The variety and quality of the performances are superlative, though some of the mood and pace changes feel a little too abrupt, tending to disrupt the flow adversely.
Hive City Legacy is an outburst of expression. The performance artistry is outstanding, yet the whole show seems to be held back by a restraining force which seems to scream: “we’re not here just to entertain you”. This subconscious call for equity / recognition (or whatever it might be) does a strangely pleasing job of tempering the otherwise “fun” aesthetics of the show.
The result is an intriguing experience: the same happy clappy power-fighting rebellion that Hot Brown Honey stoked up so well in 2017; but this time with far more detailed and probing insights into the driving forces behind the stories being told. This show definitely will entertain and thrill, but not without posing ponderous questions about finding entertainment in someone else’s struggle.
Photography: Helen Murray
|Visual pleasure||A simple set with large, honeycomb structures that also became props. The exploits of the eight performers alone made this an extraordinary visual spectacle.||5|
|Auditory pleasure||Outstanding composition and mixing work, combining so many differing styles of music. Each piece seemed to fit the changing moods and themes so well.||5|
|Architecture & Theme||The “story” of activation, pollination and liberation came across well but the swings from e.g. euphoric dancing to sombre storytelling felt a little too harsh, disrupting the experience a little too much.||3|
|Artistic delivery||Outstanding performances from all those involved, working well together as a group as well as individually when given the spotlight. The variety of performance styles was extraordinary.||5|
|Overall impact||A highly entertaining show with a serious message which raises many ponderous questions in the minds of the viewing audience. The final impression is one of uncertainty, specifically in the clash between jovial performance style and the more serious underlying theme.||4|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|