We found a copy of Frank R. Stockton’s beautiful story in the Children’s section of the library. There was something about the philosophical tale, in conjunction with the magical illustrations by PJ Lynch, that was truly captivating. We felt that, although a children’s story, it didn’t patronise or speak down to its audience.
The result was tremendous fun to put together and perform, incorporating the main detail of Stockton’s original with embellishments from the the company.
Cast: Tom Hazeldon, Eloise Reayer, Jake Mawson, Adam Morris, Imo Hayes, Aflie Dickens, Sebastian Rocca, Abi Quaintence, Katherine Tweed, Josh Hitch, Aaron Patel, Grace Povey-West, Robyn McManus, Elfreda Collings, Stacey Wilkinson, Megan Irwin, Megan Gallagher, Carolynne Roberts, Chloe Luckham, Katie Gale, Anya Yerofyeyeva, Harry Meredith.
Amy and Tony Trigwell-Jones have done a wonderful job adapting and presenting The Bee Man, a book by Frank Stockton. The Bee Man lives in the Land of Orn long ago before there was war or fear. A Sorcerer arrives in Orn and tells the Bee Man to go on a quest to discover his former self. On this journey of self-discovery the Bee Man travels far and wide travelling through the bridge of treachery, a petrified forest, an enchanted ocean, the court of a cruel king and the cave of the Very Imp.
The quest begins when the Bee Man meets a talking Pike who takes him on an underwater adventure where he meets the largest creature to inhabit the earth, the great blue whale. The whale tells him to go to the Palace to ask the Queen for advice. As his quest continues he encounters a sleeping dragon who has kidnapped an infant. With cunning and courage the Bee Man rescues the baby and stares into the infant’s eyes to discover who he was before he was the Bee Man: a baby.
This allegorical tale of a man’s quest to find his true self is told by the 24 members of the Newbury Youth Theatre. With the use of yellow, honeycombed shaped boxes the stage was transported into various locations that included a castle, mountains, a cottage, an ocean and a beehive.
The ensemble of young actors portrayed underwater creatures, bees, a king, and men and women of various ages with enthusiasm and skill. Interspersed into the action were lively songs sung by beautiful voices accompanied by a strolling guitar player.
The audience of children enjoyed the puns embedded throughout the story telling. I especially enjoyed watching the delight with which the audience reacted when the actors, as bees, went into the audience and interacted with the children. I highly recommend this funny, beautiful production to the young and old. This is storytelling at the highest level, told with vigour and intelligence that completely engages adults as well as children.
Newbury Weekly News
Newbury Youth Theatre is about to embark on its 17th consecutive outing to the Edinburgh Fringe and this year the enthusiastic ensemble of performers have chosen a little-known allegorical children’s tale, The Bee Man of Orn by Frank Richard Stockton. It is an ambitious production which the enthusiastic troupe of performers carries off with skill and confidence.
As the audience enters, the cast are buzzing around a minimalist set of hexagonal cubes representing a hive. These shapes are put to good use throughout the hour-long performance, as the cast move in a well- rehearsed rhythm. The cubes are turned into trees, castle battlements and steps.
The performance has a poetic quality to it, as the bee man is told by a junior sorcerer that he has been transformed into a bee man from something else and if he finds out what that something was, the sorcerer will make sure he is restored to his former state.
As he goes on his travels to discover his former identity, various members of the cast take on the guise of the bee man, and each time they look to the audience knowingly and inform us ‘the bee man looked completely different as he continued on his journey’.
And so his travels take him to many strange and mysterious places. He ventures to the bottom of the ocean where he meets a pike, created by a group of the performers forming a line which sways from side to side as if swimming in the sea; the huge whale is recreated by the cast with a bubble machine cunningly hidden at the back blowing the bubbles into the air to create the impression of the whale’s spout.
When he realises he didn’t use to live at the bottom of the ocean, he cannot hold his breath underwater as he thought, he arrives at a castle. Here two comical guards try to prevent him from entering but he circumvents them and lands in the queen’s chamber. The lord of the domain kicks him out, so the bee man realises he couldn’t have once been a mean person. He moves on to a cave where he meets the Languid Youth who listlessly wishes for more energy, and the Very Imp who tells him that the Ghostly Dragon, who lies in the cave, is enchanted and won’t wake up for a thousand years.
In order to rescue a baby from the evil clutches of the dragon, the bee man instinctively realises that he has to throw his bees at it. It is then that he understands that he used to be a baby and wishes he could revert to that state. He calls upon various magical creatures to help him and as they spin around him his coat and hat drop to the floor and a baby complete with bee man-style beard, appears. When the sorcerer visits him once more he recognises that the bee man has grown up to be a bee keeper just as before and order is restored.
Although it is a children’s tale, The Bee Man of Orn explores identity, the meaning of friendship and evolution. The young cast have clearly fully immersed themselves in the message behind the story and come up with an inventive and inspiring performance. It would be unfair to single out any one performance, as they work together so well as a team and each has a chance to shine.
It is an assured production, complete with musical interludes which highlight the various talents of the group. NYT has a reputation for putting on five-star performances at Edinburgh and hopefully they will continue that string of success with this year’s offering.