“Once there was a man, who lived life as it is commonly felt one should. But the badder he got, the more it was good.”
Adapted by Hideki Noda (who is also the director and plays the murderer’s wife) and Colin Teevan from a Japanese short story, The Bee tells the story of Ido (Kathryn Hunter), a perfectly good man who finds himself in a situation that good people don’t expect to find themselves in: his wife and son are taken hostage by an escaped murderer. These things happen. Frustrated by the prevarication of the law and the media’s drooling glee at his misfortune, Ido responds by becoming a perfectly bad man; taking the murderer’s wife and son hostage and falling into a daily routine of rape and violence. Pretty bad.
…the media’s gross habit of sensationalising ‘for the cameras;’ the effect of power on morality; the mental malleability of man.
Multifarious concerns fill The Bee’s hive: the media’s gross habit of sensationalising ‘for the cameras;’ the effect of power on morality; the mental malleability of man. We’ve all said it: “I’m not the kind of person who…” But if push really comes to shove, anyone is capable of anything.
Our ability to adjust to horror is both a survival strategy that helps us go on living when our minds might otherwise collapse, and an insight into our inner animal. The caveman lurks within us yet and what we do, even for others, ends up being and revealing more about who we are. Or who we think we are. When the story begins, Ido and the murderer Ogoro are, according to the accepted laws of society, polar opposites. But the divisions between them become less clear-cut as the play goes on, until the distinction between them ceases altogether as each takes over the other’s life.
…the highly imaginative use of props, voice and body…
Poverty makes the pauper the King of Theatreland. The Bee appears to have had a budget of around £9.75, most of which must have gone on elastic bands and pencils. It is this very cheapness that makes it rich. Albeit a little like a student production, its ingenuity reveals the makers are evidently old hands.
Nothing is superfluous; every item onstage, including the stage itself, is used at some point to great effect. And, while not a comedy, much amusement and pleasure can be taken from the highly imaginative use of props, voice and body. This is after all physical theatre, so expect lots of very “special” effects and, my old favourite, real-time slow-mo. Yeah!
Blackly humourous, The Bee had me laughing while wincing, and smiling while welling up (it was that blasted Humming Chorus from Madam Butterfly making everything so damn poignant what did it) and gives you much to muse upon, if you’re that way inclined. A play in the true sense of the word.
The production runs at the Soho Theatre until 11 February
Tickets from £12.50/10
Image courtesy of the Soho Theatre