A new show by the award-winning company Zoonation, who gave us Into the Hoods, comes to the London stage with a contemporary take on the old theatrical tradition of cross-dressing characters.
Set in a dystopian city where books have been burnt and sexes are segregated on the orders of the governor, the show is billed as a homage to the 1959 Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot. In fact this boisterous piece of narrative dance theatre has little in common with the film, other than its levity and the two main characters (women, in this case) deciding to try and pass themselves as members of the opposite sex.
Let's get the negatives out of the way: Twelfth Night, it isn't either. The plot is unoriginal, and, at times stretches plausibility even further than the talented cast do the fabric of their clothes. Though it sets out to tackle big themes, like love and grief, misogyny and the rejection of academic knowledge (both of which can seem so prevalent in hip-hop culture), it doesn't. Even the issues of gender role and identity, so directly highlighted by the conceit of the show, are not really examined.
But this show is highly enjoyable. It's entertaining, funny and at times moving. It stars a hugely-talented cast, most of whose members will have appeared on a screen near you (in X-factor, SYTYCD, StreetDance 3D, Coronation Street, Waterloo Road). Teneisha Bonner's presence and grace truly stand out. The costumes created by Ryan Chappell also deserve a particular mention for the sense of fun they add to the performance.
Those worried by the phrase "hip-hop" can relax, too. The original music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde, with only a couple of short exceptions, is more R&B than rap, and includes some beautiful, soulful live singing by Sheree Dubois and Elliotte Williams-N'Dure.
Katie Prince's choice was to meld hip-hop with contemporary dance but her choreographic vocabulary in the latter seems limited at times – perhaps overwhelmed by the ambition of the story. Parts of the first act lack energy and flow although there are also amazing moments of physical dexterity from the cast.
The second act, however – more explicitly hip-hoppy – truly comes to life, particularly during the ensemble pieces, and will have you wanting to jump off your seat and start dancing.
Some Like It Hip Hop runs at the Peacock Theatre until 19 November. Tickets £12-38.
Photo by Ed Miller (L-R: Tommy Franzen, Lizzie Gough, Teneisha Bonner).