It is quarter to eleven on a Tuesday night. I am in my University library in the midst of a storm of assignments; as a final year undergraduate I have deadlines tumbling out of my ears, yet here I am, furiously typing up this review.
Where do I begin when the show I just saw was completely indescribable! I cannot put into words how much I enjoyed myself, I cannot articulate the rush of euphoria that the audience collectively felt, however for the sake of this site I’ll try my very best…
It was way back in 2008 that I was first introduced to the wonder of Kate Prince’s dance juggernaut, Zoonation. I’d begged my mum to buy me tickets to see Into the Hoods, I’d promised her I’d get good GCSE’s that I’d tidy my room, even wash the dishes to see this production. She caved and I hopped, skipped and jumped to Novello Theatre, London to be transported by the show. Into the Hoods was a feel good, passionately reworked fairytale featuring all the ingredients of a conventional dance story. Just four years later, I was ecstatic to find that Zoonation were back on the stage in their latest extravaganza, Some Like it Hip-hop. Whilst the official press pictures may bring up connotations of Glee, this a thoughtful production that engages with a number of issues prevalent in Hip-hop culture.
The production travelled the UK in a momentous tour to encourage as many fans as possible experience the music, the message and the passion.
Having seen Into the Hoods, I had very high expectations and was adamant that Some Like it hip-hop would have to live up to the energy and standard of it’s predecessor. The bar had been set inhumanely high and it would be difficult to recreate the spontaneity and innovation that I’d seen all those years ago. But somehow, beyond comprehension, the team pulled out all the stops to present excellent physical theatre with refreshingly unexpected sophistication. The audience is presented with a tentative critique on the evolution of hip-hop. This is the music genre in all its former glory with the layers of misogyny, homophobia and materialism satirized and destroyed.
Within the first half hour of the show I became acutely aware that this had already surpassed anything I had seen on Broadway before. For me personally this blew Stomp out of the water, despite it being a globally recognized pioneer in physical theatre. For the last few years I’ve harbored an unnatural obsession with Wicked, having got front row tickets to see it on three separate occasions. But this may have even surpassed my favorite west end show. The true magic of Some like it Hip-hop was it’s ability to maintain the ferocious momentum throughout, with every scene being as energetic as the last. There was something about this vivacity, the sophistication of narrative hidden beneath a cloak of comedy; the entire production felt like a glimpse into the future of theatre, and maybe even the future of Hip-hop…
The director, writer and choreographer, Kate Prince had a vision of a unified hip-hop experience; and thus presented a representation of hip-hop in its truest sense. Kate’s strong ethic of making Hip-hop an expression that celebrates diversity and gives a voice to the marginalized is executed beautifully. The ‘rejected’ are the celebrated and the ruling class represent the troubled oppressors. The unexpectedly refreshing soundtrack paid homage to the retro vibe of hip-hop, with the kicks and snares ringing as pure as the godfathers of hip-hop intended. While Into the Hoods featured huge anthems like ‘Get em high’ by Kanye West and ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack, this production took on the task of creating uncannily familiar original songs. Every song was interwoven with familiar melodies and recognizable chord progressions, creating a distinctly feel good factor. Think the blues meeting Cameo in Run DMC’s studio.
When the curtain eventually went down for the intermission, my friend and I looked at each other in despair. Half of the experience was already over. The thought of the show coming to an end was actually quite distressing. We spent the duration of the break in disbelief, holding our breath that the second half would be just as mesmerizing.
Through a dystopian world, the show revolves around putting up a mirror image to society in order to reform it. The narrator begins with the lines “A woman should be seen and not heard” and thus we are confronted with the uncomfortable double standards that we accept today. In an innovative move, hip-hop becomes a medium for the celebration of education, with focus being put on the importance of literature in society. In this production gangs hang around on corners waiting for their fix of the latest paperback; their dealer comes ready with a wheelbarrow full of novels and they read with the feverish hunger of addicts.
Considering that each character has their own personalized choreography, the duplicity of the dancers is incredible. They execute a relentless barrage of fluid, tight routines whilst remembering to keep their face alive with expression. The attention to detail was particularly impressive with absolutely nothing left to chance.
The minimalist script stresses that the body is a powerful tool of communication in itself. A scene where the Governor does a solo krumping routine is extremely powerful and moving. The rage and anger manifesting through his body is almost tangible, channelling the origins of the African ritualistic dance.
Themes of grief and separation were treated delicately, in a realistic manner without losing the joy of musical theatre. Singing and humor harmoniously flowed into a subtle critique on sexual harassment at work, inequality of women and even the power of asserting yourself.
Like I said, it’s indescribable.