There’s always going to be something inherently political, inherently loaded about a stage occupied by black and brown femmes. The very act of them just being present and accountable on a central London stage is striking – I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many people of colour onstage at one time. And the audience in the Roundhouse space is, inevitably, also made up mostly of femmes of colour. It’s totally sold out, of course. Amazing what can happen when you don’t just programme white people. There’s laughter and community and safety here, cocooned in this cool, dark room, sequestered away from a sticky Chalk Farm street where England fans are roaring their disapproval.
The show is this collective yell of anger and pain and injustice, overseen by Lisa Fa’alafi’s direction and shot through with dark humour and moments of absolute tenderness. The performers are unlimited in their range, attacking the patriarchy, institutionalised racism, accepted forms of exoticism, the dangers of jingoism, all through movement, song, rap, spoken word. The room feels taut with it all. It’s overstretched, for sure, and it shows – the scrappiness of certain scenes, the way they can trail off without properly ending – for all the benefits of working as a collective, it needs a stronger throughline, more dramaturgical rigour – the unevenness of the piece is evident.
(Side note: I am aware of the complete ridiculousness of saying that Hive City Legacy needs “dramaturgical rigour” when every topic covered in the piece feels so totally vital?? It feels like I’ve reduced that valid anger under this single, elitist term. Who the fuck knows what a dramaturg is anyway? But I wanted it to have a better structure – no, needed it to have a better structure because I care so fucking deeply about what these femmes are talking about – and clearer structure, maybe fewer topics covered, more tonal cohesion – would lift it to this stunning, incandescent level of rage that it just doesn’t quite hit.)
There are some moments of pure beauty and incision – Farrell Cox and Rebecca Solomon’s acrobatic piece is a stunning, delicate piece emphasising the solidarity and community between the performers. Koko Brown’s solo moment, her mix of spoken-word and rap, spits with power and authority. There’s a point too where we hear a tirade of racist slurs being screamed offstage and your mind flits to the football happening outside. I was on the tube home when England lost and I worried, first for myself and then for the femmes still drinking and smoking and laughing outside the Roundhouse.
It’s an experience to be in that room, to share in the pain and laughter of these performers. When they stand for their bows, holding hands in a long line stretching across the stage, one of the show’s mantras echoes dimly at the back of my head.
My story her story our story.
Hive City Legacy is on at Roundhouse until Saturday 21st July. More info here.