Hive City Legacy returns to the Roundhouse this year in an electric and vibrant production in which nine Femmes of Colour take centre stage.
What is Hive City Legacy? In simple terms, the show is a collection of pieces incorporating music, dance, burlesque, spoken word, aerial acrobatics and mime performed by nine Femmes of Colour. But this description barely scratches the surface.
Whilst speaking to the cast, one of the performers, Krystal, explains “As actors, we spend so much time investigating and exploring other characters and we rarely get to explore ourselves.” I think this is the best way into understanding what the show is about. It’s an exploration.
There isn’t a neat narrative, rather there’s a mash-up of ideas as the ensemble seek to showcase themselves, their experiences and what it means exactly to be a Femme of Colour in today’s society. In doing so, it touches on a range of topics including race, sexuality, mental health and identity.
The show works on different levels; it is satirical, sometimes confrontational but mostly it is a celebration of the people that occupy the stage. As Koko says “The core message is that we are not the same. But there are so many messages and different things will resonate with different people.”
For many of the cast members, being part of this production is a particularly personal experience and has required a degree of vulnerability. Dorcas explains “Coming into this room, I’d never been in one like it in my life and it was overwhelming in the best possible way. [I was reminded], just imagine your younger self in the audience, what would you say to her? How would you want to share this story with her? That’s kept me going.”
The slogan for the show is ‘Pollinate, Liberate and Activate’ thus suggesting that Hive City Legacy’s message is intended to reach far beyond the Sackler Space in the Roundhouse Theatre. This feels particularly pertinent as we see media stories where parents are protesting LGBTQ+ education in schools, kids have physically assaulted a lesbian couple and a young black kid comes home to find ‘No Blacks’ in graffiti on their door. Despite thinking that we live in a tolerant society, clearly more needs to be done to create social change, which Hive City Legacy seeks to do.
How do you feel activism plays a role in the show? Shakaiah replies “Activism is everything, it’s like we’re doing theatrical activism in a sense. Not only are we sharing our stories and not only are we sharing other people’s stories and experiences, but we’re also out here saying we want to make change…Some of it is quite in your face but we’re here to get people to think more about this. [We’re] challenging the patriarchy all the time, challenging white men, white fragility and supremacy and all that shit by being ourselves and by performing.”
For a group that unites under the umbrella of Femmes of Colour – each performer is remarkably unique. All their hairstyles are strikingly different; some wear braids, others have afros and one has pink hair in a plait. Costume designer, Sabrina Henry, was keen to reflect their individuality in their costumes. Although each piece has similar prints, each style is not the same. “Our costume designer Sabrina is lovely. She said send us a picture in your favourite outfit” and that formed the inspiration for each outfit.
At the end of Hive City Legacy, the audience are welcomed to get on their feet and dance along with the cast. It was a real celebration and call for us to embrace all that Femmes of Colour are.
Following its run at the Roundhouse, Hive City Legacy will embark on a UK tour starting on 2 Sept 2019 at the time of writing.