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Beemaster

by on 19 June 2022

Will It ‘Bee’ Alright On The Night?

Beemaster

by Chris Harris and Chris Denys

Blue Fire Theatre Company at the Exchange Theatre, Twickenham then on tour until 31st August

Review by David Stephens

A comedic tale focusing on the plight of the humble bee, Blue Fire Theatre Company’s piece provides audiences with an entertaining and, at times, educational glimpse at the life of our winged friends, exploring the symbiotic relationship between keeper and bee and, in doing so, posing some thought provoking questions regarding our own existence and the meaning of life.

This monologue, written by Chris Harris and Chris Denys, is delivered by Brother Barnabus (Steve Taylor), the appointed Bee Master for an otherwise silent order of monks living in the idyllic surroundings of Clumpton Abbey.  This setting, represented by two stage-flats, designed and painted beautifully by Junis Olmscheid, is simple yet highly effective.  Its simplicity is necessitated by the fact that this play will soon go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and then on to various venues around the country. 

The monologue is divided into two distinct parts: the first delivered by Brother Barnabus as himself and the second following his sudden demise on stage and surprise reincarnation as a bee (complete with full ‘bee’ costume) and delivered from within one of the Abbey’s hives (the flats are turned during the interval to reveal this change of scene).  The audience, therefore, get to explore the relationship of keeper and bee, through the eyes of both parties.  This clever concept is well delivered by Steve Taylor and his acting strengths allow him to make the transformation from elderly monk to the more sprightly new-born bee, with great effect.  The monologue contains some highly entertaining moments, such as the bee’s song and dance routine, whilst also providing some interesting and thought-provoking bee-related facts through stories and anecdotes.

However ….  with three weeks to go until it appears at the EdFringe, one would have expected it to be a great deal more polished than this particular performance was.  At the start, Brother Barnabus walks on stage clutching a Dennis-Norden-like clipboard (It’ll be Alright on the Night) and its purpose was very soon revealed as Steve Taylor glanced at it countless times throughout the evening for line-prompts.  Indeed, there were times when acting was almost completely abandoned in favour of reading dryly straight from the script, resulting in disapproving gestures from the paying audience members in the vicinity.  This, together with the many, many prompts heard from the wings (some of which Steve buzzed completely off stage to acquire), gave the piece a disjointed feel, which lacked any real flow or cohesion.  An unfortunate result of ad-libbing so heavily is that the tech team are often unable to pick out their much-needed cues, and, on this occasion, it resulted in sound effects being introduced at the wrong time, almost completely drowning out the speech.  The whole piece, therefore, felt more like an advanced read-through than a performance that was worthy of a paying audience and, unfortunately for all involved, it was largely memorable for all the wrong reasons.

These issues will need to be quickly addressed if this production is to be a success in Edinburgh this year, as, at present, its lack of preparedness makes it more cringeworthy than fringe-worthy.  That said, it is clear that it has great potential and, having seen a number of their previous shows, there is little doubt that this will soon become a popular addition to Blue Fire’s successful repertoire.  We wish them all the best for their forthcoming run and genuinely look forward to seeing the finished article when it returns to London later this year.

David Stephens, June 2022

Photography courtesy of Blue Fire

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