Monday, 30 January 2012

The Bee - review

Written by: Woods (@Thomas_E_Woods)

Where did Woods Watch it?
Soho Theatre, London
Was Woods Won Over?

Elastic bands, stunning choreography, and a fantastic score all contribute to a show that is buzzing with energy from get go. The Bee by Colin Teevan and Hideki Noda (who also directs and performs) asks what happens when a victim becomes an aggressor. Mr Ido finds his family is being held hostage by Ogoro; an escaped murderer, and takes the entirely reasonable course of action to hold the murderer’s family hostage resulting in a very bizarre standoff.

It starts off with Ido (played brilliantly by Kathryn Hunter) returning home from work. As he does so he is accosted by three reporters wielding microphones constructed out of elastic bands that stretch across the stage. This is ingenious, allowing for a number of ridiculous stances and postures to be pulled by the actors in the quick fire scene that is very reminiscent of the panels of a manga comic or anime show. I was sceptical of how this could translate to live theatre, but it does - and it does so fantastically. This is a theme that carries on throughout the entire play, helped perhaps by Miriam Buether’s great design. A bright red stage and a mirrored back panel that is lit up to reveal action behind the stage works to remind us that Ido is trapped in this house. The mirror is a particularly interesting design choice - it is often risky to put mirrors on stage - but here it serves to not only exacerbate the feeling that the world (or at least the media) are watching Ido and Ogoro, but also serves to remind the audience that whatever Ido does, Ogoro responds in kind. There are props sunk into the floor, which are swiftly joined by more props throughout the play as things get more chaotic - the destruction all over the stage mirrors the destructive path that Ido has decided to take.

It has a cast of only 4, with all of the actors (bar Hunter) multi-rolling, sometimes two characters in the same room at the same time. There are some hilarious moments where a roll of paper and Glyn Pritchard swap between the characters of Ogoro’s son, and Ogoro. All of the actors keep up excellent energy and deliver powerful performances, but the two strongest are the aforementioned Pritchard, who’s characterisation and utterly convincing portrayal of a sleazy cop one moment and a 6 year old the next is fantastic, and Hideki Noda, who’s portrayal of Ogoro’s wife is beautiful. There is more than one particularly harrowing moment where Noda’s facial expression - though blank -manages to convey so many emotions at once.

It is not perfect however. The fast paced energy at the start lulls a bit in the middle. Given the somewhat light hearted beginning transforms into a much more dark and morbid end, this might be expected, but there are sections that drag a bit; one scene, where Ido ignores a phone ringing for a good 5 minutes to play with Ogoro’s son may have an amusing punch line, but the build up felt far too long.

Small flaws like this can be forgiven however, as the play picks up toward the end. It is for me, the final 10 minutes that are the strongest. Here Noda’s direction comes into its own. It is portrayed in a dark and moving ritualistic dance of the routine Ido and his hostages go through for the next week, getting shorter but maintaining speed. Although moments of levity are injected into the ritual, the overall feeling is so powerful, you don’t know whether you should laugh or cry.  This is a phenomenally powerful and intensely moving piece of theatre that demands to be(e) seen.

Photos: Michel Delsol

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