Hot Brown Honey was a brilliantly bawdy show which showed Manchester audiences that theatre can be political, funny, empowering and that no mansplaining was required.
The creators of that hit show now bring Hive City Legacy to the stage at HOME’s intimate Theatre 2, which is the perfect venue for these moving monologues. We hear a series of stories which confront the issues of gender, race, mental health and sexuality and each one is incredibly authentic.
From the office party which has racist slurs running through the evening, with the statement “You’re so sensitive” bookending the insults, through to the woman with an afro who is constantly asked to straighten her hair, which will damage it – everything you hear is recognisably poignant and, sadly, an everyday occurrence for black women.
The show is never preachy or patronising partly because Lisa Fa’alafi directs with her eye on pace as opposed to pause and because this piece has been written and developed by a terrific team, including the League of Extraordinary Femmes who strut on the stage, in defiance at the treatment they receive, by celebrating who they are.
Yami ‘Rowdy’ Löfvenberg’s choreography cuts like a knife, as these nine women fight for not just the right to tell their stories but to party. There is anger and intensity on display here and it’s incredibly infectious. But because of the incredible performances, marvellous music, and sheer variety including burlesque, beat boxing and poetry, something upbeat remains.
The show addresses slavery, immigration, the male gaze, transgender identity, and Britishness, but none of it is delivered with a sledgehammer approach because the stories are real and capture the anger you feel when you know the world is against you, even though you surround yourself with good people.
Flying around the stage with the grace, beauty and impending danger of a swarm of bees, these performers can sting too, with lines such as: “I’m paralysed as you dress me in a grass skirt … I am not your piece of meat.”
There are moments when the individual vignettes are more powerful than the show as a whole, as there is some padding. But for one fast and frenetic hour, Hive City Legacy lives up to its mantra of pollinate, activate, liberate.
I was enamoured throughout this highly original and energetic piece, and I would urge you to buzz off to HOME and spend time with these powerful queen bees, as their vocals are as sweet as honey and they wax lyrical with passion and heart.
Hive City Legacy is at HOME until 7th September.