Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: Hive, Mushmoss Collective, Edfringe 2023 ★★★☆☆

There’s certainly a lack of sci-fi-themed plays in current theatre, so when I saw that Hive by Mushmoss Collective was filling that gap I had no idea what to expect. It seems like a difficult challenge to try and encapsulate an entire genre on such a small stage but Hive has it completely down. Greeted by a small set consisting of a ladder and a light one would not believe how much bigger the space would feel by the end. This is a dazzling display of queer joy wrapped up in a sci-fi fantasy adventure.

Hive is a new queer eclectic dream of sci-fi nostalgia, combining music and lights to transform the stage into a larger-than-life dream. Single mum and reluctant megacorp conservationist Ria has been called in to sort a ‘hive’, at the same time she finds herself at a point of turmoil having recently lost her mother and dealing with her teenage child Salve’s suspension. Brought in by the corporation she’s asked to deal with this infestation, little does she know how much is actually in store for her.  The hive is presented as this otherworldly entity, described with the feeling of insects we’re not sure if its energy or lifeforms but regardless it feels very much alive.

Writer Ariella Como Stoian has masterfully crafted a very specific narrative style that flows lyricism like making your way down a lazy river. It’s relaxing to listen to, with each poetic word painting an image clear in our minds. It’s punctuated with moments of dialogue, witty conversations between characters, inner reflections and we’re teased with this idea of loss that Ria doesn’t want to talk about, but Salve desperately wants to acknowledge. Actor Elin Doyle does a wonderful job of displaying a caring and dedicated mother with the world on her shoulders.

The actors are versatile and switch between characters well. I would have liked slightly more distinction between characters when they were going from introspective thoughts to dialogue. Specifically with the character they created called Craig. Both actors tackled playing him but I found it was easy to get a bit lost about who was playing who at times and felt that some specificity on a voice or the mannerisms he had would have been beneficial. His inclusion into the story didn’t feel explored enough. As the only outside eye we have, it would have been nice to see more of his journey and the relationship he had with the hive and the characters in response to discovering the hive.

A tapestry of queer joy is expertly crafted into the story. Salve is nonbinary and authentically able to be themselves, normalised, and accepted wholeheartedly by their mother, who corrects and gently educates where others fail to do the same. It was a welcome inclusion and I loved that the plot was created around these characters rather than the characters created to serve the plot. It highlights the lack of gender-diverse media representation, especially positive representations.

The play is visually stunning, with incredible use of lighting design and sound that sends you into a fantastical world. Each transition gives a powerful collection of sci-fi synth that vibrates in your bones. It cuts through creating, at times, thick tension and gearing you up for the next scene. The lights are an ethereal glow and combined with the use of haze creates an amazing illusion of either a smaller space or larger. It builds at times to give an intimate feel where the emotional crux of actors is able to shine as a result. It’s incredibly well thought out and executed perfectly as a result.

I enjoyed the themes that cropped up throughout, strong ideas of displacement at the beginning and set up a rhetoric of questioning capitalism, however, it felt lost as the plot progressed. It’s clear that megacorp appears as the physical embodiment of power and Craig, an extension of that, which Ria does query and push back against to start with but once we become more involved with the Hive it feels like we leave that theme behind. The Hive is a community set up to feel like a utopia of our own with the corporation directly opposing as dystopia. Somehow the two are both wonderfully distinct and are created well within the sci-fi genre but don’t seem to collide enough to sharpen the messages that it feels they’re trying to convey by the end of the play.

Hive is a visual sensation, cornering the world of sci-fi and I hope it brings an under-experienced genre to our theatres more. It’s inspiring to watch and sparks creative joy in the audience it gathers.

Recommended Drink: A glass of galaxy inspired Prosecco.

Catch Hive until August 15th at 16:35 at Assembly Roxy. Tickets are available through the the Edfringe box office

Phoebe Bakker

Phoebe is an AuDHD actor, director, and writer from Milton Keynes. She has a strong interest in theatre shows and graduated from Fourth Monkey which specialised in movement and physical theatre. With a love for social commentary, she looks for challenging concepts about the world we live in told in new and creative ways. If she can feel your passion she's interested. Currently after hours, you'll find her sipping on a Jaffa Cake Espresso Martini.

Festivals: EdFringe (2023)
Pronouns: She/Her