The Boy with the Bee Jar theatre review

Guest reviewer Ellen Harper, ventures to the Hope Theatre to watch The Boy with the Bee Jar.

While loss and loneliness go hand-in-hand, this 2-man play was a portrayal of stumbling across
genuine connection through the fog of grief. Two characters, experiencing hardships in their own ways;
with polar opposite coping mechanisms, lifestyles and personalities cross paths to create a narrative
between themselves that is both meaningful and expressive of our wider society.  

Having worked with homeless people myself, I can safely say that Colin Hurley’s representation
of Euston (the homeless guy) embodied everything that was indicative of those living right on the
fringes of society. The gruffness, dry humour and intimidatingly hard exterior – masking an internal
squidgy-ness – truly represented the conflict of a person worn down by the struggles of society. He
fulfilled the role with the empathy required and connected with the audience in a way that proved he
understood his character’s relationship with them.

Both of the actors played the wide variety of characters, examined through snippets during flashbacks and peeks through the curtains of other peoples lives, exquisitely. What particularly startled me was George Rowland’s (who played ‘the boy’ and confidante to Euston) ability to switch from the serenity, social awkwardness and innocence of his ‘main’ character, straight into the anger of another of his characters in a way that made me jump out of my seat. His portrayal of anger and aggression, through people who were dissatisfied in their lives truly shook me to my core and made me feel the emotion that an onlooker would feel when confronted with such an outburst in real life.

Both actors must be commended for their diverse skillset, fluctuating dramatically and rapidly between playing a screaming child or barking dog to a fully-fledged, rational grown up with the smoothest of transitions.

The stage set-up and direction were also exquisite, with the use of space and props that made
up what appeared to be a junk yard being so incredibly basic. Yet, with the themes of the play being
incredibly raw and dynamic and with the actors use of their bodies to tell the story, there was little need
for extravagance. Whether it was producer Zoe Waites, director Philip Wilson or a combination of the
cast and crew, the way the team managed the stage to embody the narratives they were trying to
convey was almost remarkable. This play was an example of how simple really is best, as it gave way for
the characters true selves to come forward without distractions of grandeur that would entirely
unfitting with such a script.

The writing, by playwright John Straiton was poetic and exquisite, allowing the audience to follow along and capture the emotion of 2 actors playing interchanging characters with only SOME (albeit a little) confusion. The Boy with the Bee Jar touched on multiple politically and culturally taboo subjects, on everything from teenage stabbings to drug addicted parents in an intellectual, thought- provoking way. These themes were touched upon with sensitivity and in a way that brought humanity to issues that our society tries to skirt around. Having said this, whilst the play was brimming with ideals of
the liberal agenda, the entirely white (and dare I say middle class) cast and crew did not represent the
reality of the many urban themes they covered, nor would it encourage a diverse audience who could
potentially benefit from the discussion.

The Boy with the Bee Jar is on at Hope Theatre in Islington until 17th of July and tickets start at £12. More information and booking via the website here.

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