A day in the life of a child is presented as a game of escapism. Written by German writer Roland Schimmelpfennig and translated by Daniel Tushingham with direction by Rachel Bagshaw
Three young actors; Emily Burnett, James Russell-Morley and Akshay Sharan portray the 10 year old character; genderless, nameless as emotionally distant from themselves as they are with the world around them. They find solace in video games as their parents, unemployed and alcoholics neglect and leave them to fend for themselves. No clean clothes, very little food and it seems very little love.
Presented as levels in a game the story alternates between the reality of their lives, being late for school, avoiding a creepy neighbour and the local bullies and the fantasy of becoming a bee. A bee who can do as they please with the care and support of the hive.
Rachel Bagshaw’s direction reminded me of the Curious Incident of the Night time at the NT (and beyond) it is a physically demanding work with Khadija Raza’s simple set design dominated by Joshua Pharo’s lighting, which evokes the life of the bee and the life of the child. Twinkling blues lights become rain, red lights symbolise being encase in the bud of a flower and Jon McLeod’s sound design which evokes the sounds familiar to video game players.
All three young actors have great energy and work well with the audience. In the matinee I saw I would say much of the audience were too young to really get to grips with the dark themes and this is much more suited to a teenage audience but the message of achievement and being creative in the face of adversity is important for all ages.
The Bee in Me is on until 1 March. Tickets from £6 for children and £12 for adults. https://www.unicorntheatre.com/TheBee