Aimed at eight to 12-year-olds, The Bee in Me is a smart piece that manages to pack heaps into its 70 minutes.
It is not all milk and honey, mind. At the centre of celebrated German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s text is a 10-year-old child whose life, as we gradually discover, is a hard one.
They live with alcoholic, neglectful parents, they are at the risk of exclusion from school, and, as a consequence, at a greater risk of dangers in the outside world. But they also have the power of imagination, a resource for survival in a hard world that helps to make the austerity obstacle course feel more like the levels of a computer game.
The protagonist’s non-determinate identity is achieved by having a tight chorus of three actors – Emily Burnett, James Russell-Morley and Akshay Sharan – tell the story together. As a result of their lively, warm and inclusive rendition and Rachel Bagshaw’s sensitive direction, the in-built narrative bleakness fades into the background.
Khadija Raza’s set design, Joshua Pharo’s lighting and Jon McLeod’s sound combine to conjure up a world in which a council estate can seamlessly transform into cyberspace or serve to highlight the wonders of the natural world as seen through the eyes of bees. And it is precisely this thin line that yields greater hope for all of our futures.