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Some Like it Hip Hop (ZooNation) – Sadler’s Wells May/June 2013

Not just hip-hop, but a fine blend of R&B, soul, disco. Or as the song goes.

Some Like it Hip Hop…

Some like it not.

Whatever does it for you, is the message.

theatre(Outside the Peacock Theatre, Holborn.)

Some Like It Hip Hop is primarily a dance show, which also has an attached narration along spoken/rapped/sung lines. This takes us through the story of a city whose Governor has “gone bad” and metaphorically put out the sun. Books are banned, women are only allowed the most menial jobs and subservient roles in the workplace, and even the men have to conform to a certain standard of macho productiveness. Failure leads to banishment outside the city walls, and this is where our heroines Jo-Jo and Kerri find themselves. Hereafter, we follow their adventures as they disguise themselves as men to get back inside.

To be honest, although engaging enough, the storyline is the weakest part of the show. It doesn’t really stand up on a psychological level, which a modern audience might find slightly challenging. On the other hand, a psychologically sound story line was never Shakespeare’s strongest point, and he was dead popular in his time (and subsequently) – the point was the experience and the emotions it stirred.

So… is it Shakespearean? (And what do I even mean by that?)

Yes: It’s funny.  Humour comes from many sources including the good natured but awkward Sylvester from the factory; the lampooning of men’s typical macho behaviour; the knowing little asides from the narrator. And funny and witty had been what I had been expecting from the reviews.

Yes: It’s got integrity – It’s cool to be a nerd. It’s cool to like books. It’s cool to be a strong woman.

Not Shakespearean, but still good: There are some fab technical moments. Such as a dream sequence depicting the rhythm of sleep; a beatboxing “fast forward” sequence; and an extremely soulful and imaginative rendering of the the Governor’s life in flashback (standout performance throughout was the dark electricity of Bradley Charles as Governor Okeke)

Yes and more yes: It’s got emotional clout.

Now, I hadn’t been expecting the emotional bit. But it really did get emotional towards the end, and this was due to the beauty of the singing, and the way the choreography had the whole cast working so well together. There was a very powerful “battle”, which I with my woeful knowledge of dance (how embarrassing is this) am only able to compare to the video for Run DMC’s It’s Like That. There was a reunion, which had people around me in tears, and I was quite sniffly myself.

After the finale of the story proper, the cast did a closing number, in which the soul singers danced, and the dancers all sang. Then they were suddenly (somehow in a twenty second costume change) all a white tuxed band in a sort of closing credit… and even the Musical Director/Composer was on doing a breakdance bit. It was lots of fun.

It wasn’t just about the story; it was about the power of song and dance to make people feel close to each other, all charged up with the same emotion.  I left feeling very uplifted.  Unfortunately, however, this feeling of uplift is no longer available, as the show finished its 8 week run yesterday. However I will definitely be looking out for more ZooNation productions, and will be expecting great things.


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