Director, Writer, Choreographer & Lyricist: Kate Prince
Writer & Assistant Director: Felix Harrison
Composer & Musical Director: DJ Walde & Josh Cohen
Reviewer: Victoria Bawtree
The Public Reviews Rating:
ZooNation’s latest show is now touring, giving audiences outside London the opportunity to get on board an extraordinary rollercoaster production fusing dance and music with a story that nods its head at both ‘Some like it hot’ and ‘Twelfth Night’. An expectant crowd at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre needed little encouragement to ‘make some noise’, as the narrator announced that ‘this is not just theatre, this is ‘hip hop’ theatre’….
At the centre of the story is the forbidding ‘Governer Odeke’ (Duwane Taylor) who, for reasons explained later in the show, has blocked out all light from his city, banned books and segregated men from women. He is a puppet-master in his office where men work, assisted by a few oppressed women, while outside the city gates the rejected citizens scrape by huddled around a fire for warmth. Two women, Kerri Kimbalayo and Jo-Jo Jameson (Minica Beason and Sarah Richards), are rejected from the office, but are able to infiltrate a man’s world through cross-dressing and passing an extraordinary choreographed job interview. At the same interview is the book-loving hero of the story, Simeon Sun (Denny Haywood) who passes with flying colours, but doesn’t exactly fit the mould.
The story is told powerfully through expertly choreographed dance and newly-composed music; it is packed with energy and surprisingly real emotion. Much of the production feels fast and furious, but there are also moments of calm. Musically, each group of characters has its own style. The Governor’s workers are accompanied by a fragmented, bass-heavy soundtrack complete with typewriter clicks and the continual ticking clock; Simeon, the ‘book man’, is introduced with a happy, up-beat number, and the misfit Sudsy Partridge (Shaun Smith), dances to ‘Invisible me’ performed by singer-songwriter DJ Walde on the acoustic guitar.
There is no weak link in this energetic cast. Duwayne Taylor’s Governer begins dark, moody and imposing, and at the end his fusion of dance and raw emotion is a highlight. Denny Haywood’s Simeon is quirkily cool and fun-loving. And Minica Beason and Sarah Richards are strong and sassy, even while wearing a brown suit, mop-top wig and large moustache in disguise.
All the singers in this production are strong and perform in impressive harmony. Elliotte Williams-N’Dure and Sheree Dubois, in particular, had powerful vocals in both solo and duet numbers in various styles. Ross Green begins as an unassuming Welsh narrator, but as time goes on, his considerable talents for accents, singing and beat-boxing all come to the fore. It was, however, occasionally hard to hear his narration at the beginning of his speeches – presumably nothing a little swifter adjustment of sound levels wouldn’t cure.
While there is plenty of dark, raw emotion in this production, there is also plenty of comedy through clever characterisation and quirky costumes. You will feel a sub-bass in your seat, and it is loud in places, but nothing unexpected considering the show’s title. On the other hand, you may need to beware the ZooNation fan who takes the advice to ‘make some noise’ to a new level all of their own….