REVIEW: Beekeeper of Aleppo
No doubt those people who sing the praises of wild swimming as a way of connecting with nature would acknowledge that there are other ways of making that connection as well.
In this often moving play, adapted from Christy Lefteri’s best-selling novel, it’s keeping bees - learning how NOT to get stung and learning HOW to produce honey which makes everybody’s lives sweeter. It’s an activity that serves as a beautiful metaphor for a good life.
We meet Nuri (excellent and richly rewarding Alfred Clay) as a young man in the Syrian city of Aleppo. He goes into business with his cousin Mustafa (versatile Joseph Long) looking after bees rather than his dad’s fabric business - and he flourishes.
All is good – until the onset of the brutal and polarizing civil war which started in 2011 and still blights the country (and in fact the whole region) today.
Huge praise must go to designer Ruby Pugh, lighting designer Ben Ormerod and film designer Ravi Deepres who along with Tingying Dong’s evocative soundscape create the many changes in location and mood brilliantly. Their sea crossing from Turkey to Greece is likely to stay with you and haunt you.
In this thoughtful adaptation by Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler, we see Nuri and his wife Afra (vulnerable Roxy Faridany) in the parallel stories of how they are forced to leave Syria and how they adjust to life in England. There are a couple of abrupt turns and the elements of physical theatre could be taken further, but director Miranda Cromwell tells the story with integrity.
Scenes with Border Security, a doctor’s receptionist and immigration officers in the first half are so two-dimensional that they do little more than preach to the converted. More nuanced interactions later are more effective.
This emotive story telling is highly effective - and taking us into the lives of afflicted individuals (especially as this is being staged during Refugee Week) is a troubling but enriching experience.
Of course, as people in the audience know, beekeeping and wild swimming are not the only ways of connecting; there is also theatre – and so that proves here.