REVIEW: HIVE CITY LEGACY (The Roundhouse) ★★★★

A powerful piece of performance art that packs a punch!

The Australian creative collective Briefs Factory bill themselves as “manufacturers and distributors of evocative, irreverent, political punk performance”. For the last few years the men of the Briefs Factory have brought their incredible burlesque cabaret show to the Spiegel Tent at Underbelly. Last year, the Hot Brown Honey women of Brief’s Factory brought their fabulous show to the UK.

In 2018, three members of Hot Brown Honey invited applications from 18 – 25 year old black, female artists across London and the result is The Femmes of Colour and this Hive City Legacy show. The production is an extraordinarily vibrant – in your face – uplifting – depressing – riot of action and words, that has you pinned to your seat with your head spinning as you try to take in everything that is going on!

The show starts with just one of the performers on stage – Farrell Cox – who is the clown of the group – entertaining us with some physical comedy, before the other 8 women enter with a fierce dance routine. We are then taken through a variety of individual and group pieces which identify, demonstrate and challenge the stereotypes foisted on to women of colour. The vignettes show the women facing down and clapping back at a variety of racist tropes.

The tone is set early with the women speaking of experiences growing up, working out how to be women of colour in England in the face of both subtle and overt racism. The story of being told to “go back to where you came from” was sickeningly familiar from recent news headlines.

Each woman individually delivers her own piece, with particular stand out moments including Rebecca Solomon’s rope work, Shakaiah Perez with a Poi (swinging tethered weights through a variety of rhythmical and geometric patterns) routine and Krystal Dockery with a hilarious housewife skit complete with pink apron and a delicately placed nipple tassel! However, it is the choreographed routines involving all the women that really lets loose the anger and frustration of seeking to simply live a life as a woman of colour.

The Beehive office party scene draws laughs of familiarity from sections of the audience and uncomfortable seat shuffling for others.

I felt a thread of adoration for Beyoncé by the writer(s) throughout the piece, without it being a straight up homage. The “Bey hive” is used as a collective noun for Beyoncé’s most ardent fans and this show certainly used the Beehive imagery well. The formation- style dancing felt like a tribute to Beyoncé’s Superbowl performance. These women certainly channel Beyoncé’s message of be fabulous, be who you are and don’t take any BS from anyone!

The show lacks a little theatrical polish, which is not surprising given this group have been together for a relatively short time. It may need just a touch of finessing to take the show into a bigger space, a move it most certainly deserves. This is an impressive, challenging piece of theatre.

Reviewed by Emma Heath
Photo: Helen Murray


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