The Hive

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Marnie Langeroodi

at 09:56 on 9th Aug 2014

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‘The Hive’ asks us if it’s possible to reconnect in a world where every move and thought is monitored, where a spy-state controls everything, and where there is no individual freedom.

The problem is that we’ve been asked these things before. The company, The Human Zoo Theatre, say themselves that their show is “inspired by the likes of 1984 and Brave New World”. Their theme – a dystopian state under totalitarian rule and unrelenting surveillance – has already been extensively handled. And though anxiety about our privacy is more relevant now than ever, this play didn’t add anything new to Orwell or Huxley’s premises with which we have been familiar for so long.

The title is clever – the characters exist in a beehive-like network where they live for the benefit of the hive rather than in the pursuit personal interests. What’s more, they can only communicate through digital screens and they’re punished for speaking out by being taken offline. In this situation, the characters begin to grow restless: “maybe there’s more out there…” This is one of many clichés. Others include the fact that the characters are addressed by numbers rather than names, they’re made to repeat a mantra of propaganda, they’ve never seen trees or animals, a love story ensues against all the odds… I could go on.

These are criticisms I give to the story itself. Aside from this, my biggest criticism of the performance is the overly melodramatic delivery on the part of all the actors, albeit to varying degrees.

‘The Hive’ does have some redeeming features, however. It was touching to see Koto (Nick Gilbert) and Miri trying to dance with each other through their screens. The music is great here and really influences the mood. Gilbert is outstanding – a clear star of the show – and he increasingly captivates the audience as his character’s relationship with Miri intensifies.

There are some nice visual moments, including when the actors create the impression of a machine by moving together as a series of lights. The characters’ isolation from each other is effectively demonstrated when they face the audience while talking to each other through their screens. We feel how unnatural it is to talk to someone who at once is and isn’t in front of you.

The poetry, music, movement and visuals of ‘The Hive’ are commendable, and yet, I’m left totally unconvinced by the story.

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Patrick Galbraith

at 10:10 on 9th Aug 2014

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To be utterly honest, the plot of “Hive” was a little kitsch. We learn that “a long time ago, long before any of you were born, there was some great war” – think “Nineteen-eighty-four”, or think Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, or actually, just think of almost any post-apocalyptic work of art that you have ever stumbled upon.

The only people who were left live below ground, in a dystopian community called the Hive – a dictatorship where everyone must live apart in eight foot by eight foot boxes. The slogan “SAFETY IN SEGRAGATION” adorned the great stone wall on the stage. Oh, and then there’s “PEACE IN SOLIDARITY” on the opposite wall and “PLEASURE IN LOGIC” on the third. In other words, somebody enjoyed Orwell’s great novel and thought if it’s good enough for him then it’ll be good enough for us.

You get the idea - it’s about as original as a trip to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. However, it has a few redeeming features. The choreography must be commended, at points it gave the play great emotional energy, and at the centre of the plot lay a poignant love story. We see human nature pitted against brutal tyranny – I don’t want to say Winston and Julia but it’s perched on the tip of my tea- burnt tongue. The point though, is that Florence O’Mahony’s performance as Miri was very good, and Nick Gilbert’s performance as Koto verges on excellent. There is something remarkably impressive about a third-hand story line being so well acted, that I sat there hoping it was dark enough that no one would notice me wiping my eyes with my Edinburgh Fringe Review jumper.

Whilst I suspect that many sat there thinking we’ve all been here before, Hive made a relatively fresh comment on the impact of technology upon human relationships (“relatively fresh” is perhaps quite generous). Miri and Koto begin their clandestine affair by talking through “network screens”, in much the same way that many relationships rely upon media-technology in our world. The suggestion is that technology gives us a sense of unity, of being closer together, but “Hive” suggests that it is a mere allusion, an experience lacking in any real intimacy.

So would I recommend it? Is it worth a tenner? It’s really very hard to say: if you like to consider yourself an extraordinarily cultured thespian, you will probably hate it. If, on the other hand, you want to be made to feel a little bit sad and enjoy good acting and lively choreography then head straight there. Try and forgive the odd over-acted performance - and you'll probably enjoy it to some extent.

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