“Some of the moves were so athletic and gravity defying that they induced audible gasps of disbelief from those watching”
Almost exactly eight years to the day, Zoonation’s show returns to the theatre where it staged its world premiere for a short revival.
A grieving Governor is so heart-broken, that he obscures the sun, bans books and exiles women. Two ladies in not so much of a nod, more of an affectionate wink to Some Like It Hot and Twelfth Night, sneak back into the city dressed as men and try to blend in, producing much hilarity and unexpected love.
An impressive set flies in and out with military precision and is so slick that it almost matches the staccato movement of the surrounding dancers. Lighting is sombre, matching the mood of the governor and yet is always precisely on point. Costumes are suitably ‘street’ and are cleverly designed to give the actors all the room they need for the lightening quick movement required.
You could pick holes in the script, yet I’m fairly confident that not a single person in the packed auditorium was there to find a sub-plot, they were there for the dance and boy what a treat they had.
The story was told by a narrator and my only quibble was that he was not always easy to understand, cutting off the end of his sentences and sometimes being drowned out by the score. The two female singers had rich, soulful voices that complemented each other beautifully and effortlessly filled the theatre.
Some Like it Hip Hop is an ensemble piece and all the dancers clearly have a trust and respect for each others work and great humour is injected into the show. As the Governor, (Christian Alozie) is strong, masculine and as moody as the World that he has created, his rooted to the spot krumping is a joy to behold. The two lead ladies are terrific. Jo-Jo (Lizzie Gough) is quirky and delightfully complements her love interest Simeon. Kerri (Jade Hackett) with one lucky punch, is looked upon as more of a man than all the hunks surrounding her and makes the most of all her humorous moments in both her movement and facial expression. Simeon (Tommy Franzen) is extraordinary. His dancing is clean, controlled and seemingly effortless, with every move, however small, having a purpose.
So many scenes were memorable, a clever section with six characters all restlessly going to sleep, an extremely funny song ‘Rules Of Seduction’ and the final battle for supremacy ramps the acrobatic dance moves to a whole new level.
I was delighted to see that the audience was made up of mostly teenagers and children, I was treated to the most amazing curtain call I have ever seen with each actor having a short dance isolation whilst the rest of the cast mirrored their movements in a surrounding horseshoe. Some of the moves were so athletic and gravity defying that they induced audible gasps of disbelief from those watching.
This is a high energy, incredibly skilful show that will live in the memory for a long time. I’m not sure if it’s good form for a reviewer to stand up and join in the dancing at the end of the show but I did.
At the very beginning of the evening, we were encouraged by the narrator to make as much noise as possible. That is exactly what happened and what a happy, excited noise it was.
“There is violence, despair and a moment of unrealised revelation, and Blair handles it all with a deft understanding”
This story of an Italian American family in nineteen sixties Brooklyn shines a light on the experiences of first and second generation immigrants, and the struggles faced by the women in particular. It is loosely based on writer Meghan Kennedy’s mother’s adolescence and the life of her big Italian Catholic family. Kennedy wants to honour the voices of girls from families like this who, both in the past and currently, have to fight to be heard. Six of the eight actors on stage are female, putting women’s experiences at the centre of the action.
The Muscolino family live in a Brooklyn tenement, and their story is told through a series of almost cinematic scenes that unveil the lives of the family members. The mother, Luda, brilliantly played by Madeleine Worrall, cooks and cares for her husband Nic and three daughters. But her family are not happy, and she is unable to cry. She can’t even talk to God anymore, as her husband has beaten up their daughter Vita, so she talks to an onion instead. Vita, vividly brought to life by Georgia May Foote, does not regret protecting her younger sister Francesca from their father’s rage, which was triggered by her cutting her hair short, and, although she has no wish to be in the convent she’s been sent to, she can appreciate the peace and calm there; a real contrast to her home life. Tina, the eldest, feels guilty that she didn’t stand up to their father and protect her sister. She is caught in a dead end job, denied schooling to help provide for her family, and Mona Goodwin does a lovely job of portraying her low self esteem and doubts. They are all caught in their own narratives, and those narratives are really all about love.
Francesca is in love with her friend Connie, and they are planning to run away to France. They dance to ‘Bee Bop A Lula.’ pretend to smoke cigarettes and look forward to a life where they can be their true selves. Hannah Bristow’s Francesca is feisty, funny, brave and full of the optimism of youth. Laurie Ogden plays Connie with tenderness and gentle determination, as the girls plan their escape.
Connie’s father is Albert, the local butcher and he is in love with Luda, she clearly likes him too, but she is faithful to her husband, even though he is greatly changed from the man she fell in love with. The two men are complete opposites; Stephen Hogan gives Albert a wistful gentleness that beautifully contrasts with Robert Cavanah’s frighteningly violent Nic. Cavanah’s performance has more than a touch of Marlon Brando about it, and the times when we see the man he used to be are unexpectedly touching.
The final character is Celia, played by Gloria Onitiri, a black woman who works with Tina at the factory. She is a happily married woman who loves reading and Onitiri plays her with spirit. The two women become friends, and when Tina asks Celia ‘how does it feel to be loved’ it brought a tear to my eye.
When a dreadful and completely unexpected tragedy strikes the whole area all their lives are turned upside down.
Napoli, Brooklyn is wonderfully directed by Lisa Blair. There are some standout moments, such as the mesmerisingly tender scene when Francesca and Connie gaze into each other’s eyes and mime undressing. There is violence, despair and a moment of unrealised revelation, and Blair handles it all with a deft understanding. The set, designed by Frankie Bradshaw, is atmospheric and gives a great sense of place and time. Johanna Town and Max Pappenhem created the lighting and sound, adding to the sensory impression of the setting, which was occasionally enhanced by the delicious smell of food.
This is a play that has a firm sense of time and place, but deals with themes that are just as relevant today. Beautifully acted and directed, it is definitely one to see.