The Hive presents a dystopian future which functions by the principle of “safety in segregation”: each person lives isolated in an eight-by-eight-metre cell and can communicate with others only through screens. As the mechanical system of the ‘Hive’ starts to falter, and its inhabitants start to become aware of the boundaries that have been imposed upon their entire existence, irreversible changes occur which threaten both the integrity of the system and the lives of those subject to it. This dark piece of theatre is one of the most visually stunning and inventive productions I have ever seen at the Fringe.
The Hive’s exploration of the breaking of the mental and physical barriers of this dystopian world is utterly compelling.
The screens by which people can communicate are represented by hand-held empty picture frames, with LED lights subtly attached which can be turned on and off by the performers. These are used to particularly great effect in the incredibly slick physical theatre sequences. The frames, as with all other props, are also used creatively to represent a multitude of objects. The boxes which function as seats are used as drums; torches are fastened to the knuckles of the cast, who, lining up their arms knuckle to elbow, create the flexible and fluid tentacles of a monstrous machine.
Such complex use of props requires incredible concentration and energy from the cast (Nick Gilbert, Florence O’Mahony, Fleur Rooth, Rosalind Hoy and Chris Hooper). All should be highly commended, along with choreographer Liberty Bliss, for the seamlessness with which the play’s stunning physical theatre sequences are performed. Particularly fantastic is the sequence which presents the daily routine of the Hive’s inhabitants, with the movements becoming more robotic and sinister the more times they are repeated. Although physicality is their greatest strength, the entire cast produces strong, rounded performances which capture the struggle of being forced to drastically adjust one’s conception of the world.
Lighting and sound are also outstandingly well produced, adding to the emotional intensity of the piece. The imagination that has gone into the set, and the skill with which it has been constructed, is equally if not more remarkable. Movable cell walls look appropriately mechanical and ominous, and permit slick scene changes which are artistically interesting in their own right.
The Hive’s exploration of the breaking of the mental and physical barriers of this dystopian world is utterly compelling. I am already incredibly excited to see what this emerging theatre company, with its exceptional talent and enchanting artistic vision, produces next.