Familiar with Zoonation productions, the presence of narrator (Tachia Newall) at the start of Some like it Hip-Hop suggested that a fairytale might be ahead. But the tale spun was dark and not all folklore. In Governor Okeke’s world the sun has been blotted out, books have been banned and women have been sidelined. In their ivory towers men clock in to the room to work. When Jo-Jo Jameson (Lizzie Gough) and Kerri Kimbalaya (the brilliant Teneisha Bonner) sneak into the recreation room in the men’s quarters, the stakes are high as they attempt to hide in the testosterone-fuelled environment. In the speakeasy style den the cards are on the table, but the fun and games are only just beginning for the ladies, as they must launch into a farcical cat and mouse escapade.
Unhappy to be treated like vermin, the ladies take an as you like it approach donning suits and moustaches so they can join the boys brigade. Shakespeare would be proud of their gender reversal, if only for the light it shines on the male species. But not all the male characters are bad. The protagonist is the nerdy Simeon Sun (Tommy Franzén). DJ Walde underscores Sun’s goofy character and incompetence beautifully as the guitar-playing reject who performs Invisible Me. Walde, who has a voice reminiscent of Robin Thicke, does an excellent job as the shows Composer and Musical Director. He meshes a soundtrack that fuses hip-hop, R&B, jazz and electro. The musical smorgasbord is executed by several other stellar voices belonging to the likes of Elliote Williams-N’Dure and Sheree Dubois whose Aretha Franklin references aptly capture the respect their vocals command.
In this production, the world-class choreography stands out as much as the music and dance becomes a character. The audience is treated to popular dance crazes past and present such as break dancing, crumping, the bogle, the butterfly and the dutty wine. Beyond the rehearsals the dancers are put through their paces and pass every test and assessment with flying colours. While Jameson and Kimbalya fare less favourably with their deception, the activities in the men’s sleep quarters prove both amusing and entertaining not least in Kimbalaya’s post hazing celebrations.
As alliances blossom and illegal substances are consumed, the plot moves on when we meet the Governor’s daughter Oprah (Natasha Gooden – whose warm Liverpudlian accent accentuates her character’s vulnerabilities) and find out what plunged him into darkness, before the rejects rebel, battle style, to unearth the light. But the real story is told with each synchronised and symmetrical line of the dancers’ movement. Each motion conveys emotion. As limbs bounce along to the lyrical script, the audience is reminded about just how exciting kinetic energy can be. From street dance to classical steps, each talented dancer moves the audience with their movement.
Building on the classic film Some Like it Hot, Director, writer and choreographer Kate Prince progresses the story of love in drag by flipping the script. In reverse, these lines paint historical pictures of black music and dance. But the production is very current. Dripping in hip-hop culture it alludes to the genre’s reputation for misogyny. But what is most memorable from the show is not the stereotypes, but the constant dynamism, which leaves audiences dancing in the aisles.
Some Like It Hip-Hop is at Peacock Theatre Portugal Street, Holborn, WC2.
20 Oct – 19 Nov.
For more information visit: http://www.sadlerswells.com/show/ZooNation-Some-Like-It-Hip-Hop