Make Way for the Matriarchy: Hive City Legacy @ HOME, Manchester
Activate. Pollinate. Liberate. The mantra of Hive City Legacy embraces the powerful potential of coming together to draw strength from shared experiences.
Brought to the stage by Busty Beatz, Lisa Fa’alafi, Yami ‘Rowdy’ Lofvenberg and A League of Extraordinary Femmes, this Roundhouse and Quiet Riot collaboration proudly stems from a creative team exclusively of women of colour. Taking their story into their own hands, Hive City Legacy is a head-on affront to the marginalisation and stereotyped assumptions that these women face every day.
Framed in naivety, the production bursts forth from a series of mysterious tessellating toy boxes. The child on stage, played with balletic grace by Farrell Cox, learns the true context of being a woman of colour in modern British society. Just as we, the audience, are dragged through some uncomfortable moments of harsh reality and purposefully pushed beyond our comfort zone. Grounding the largely abstract show, this central childlike figure provides some semblance of a narrative arc. Where the Hive warriors, shrouded in resentment and aggression, initially ignore the child, we watch her transformation as she enters the fold, welcomed by the maternal, matriarchal group.
This cacophonous collage of individual stories certainly fulfils its ‘genre-defying’ promise. From poetry, beatboxing, breakdancing, and song, to aerial acrobatics and unforgiving satire, you can never be sure of what the next scene holds. The beautifully entangled acrobatic sequence, as Farrell Cox and Rebecca Solomon hang from a single rope, entirely shifts the atmosphere of this otherwise boisterous production.
Indeed all of the show’s story-telling defies a dialogic structure; most of the time, it denies words entirely. Unified dance numbers are the stronghold of the piece, where the nine-strong company is at its fiercest.
Whilst they share so much with one another, the cast fervently declare: “We’re all black women but we’re not the same”. This, the resounding war cry at the end of the show, dictates that each of the League of Extraordinary Femmes onstage has their individual moment in the spotlight.
As a starkly political production, the show escapes the pitfalls of hammering home a single message for an hour on stage. Instead, through a series of interconnected stories and experiences, this femme collective asserts its individuality. They all wear the same patterns, yet every costume is unique. Through every scene, we hear a different perspective on cultural heritage, memory, bodily expectations and mental health issues. They may be a united hive, but it is from their differences that they derive the strength to reject the fetishisation of women of colour.
From the oversized props to the in-your-face satirical songwriting, Hive City Legacy reclaims negative perceptions through unashamed satirical mockery. They (quite literally) give the world the finger. Yet, what could risk becoming a distinctly ‘them and us’ experience instead culminates in the audience being welcomed to join the on-stage party. The fourth wall is just another boundary that this production smashes through.
Hive City Legacy is touring the UK. Make way for the matriarchy in Bristol from 17-18th October and Cardiff from 7-9th November.