The Beekeeper of Aleppo

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This is a story which needs to be told. This is a story which needs to be heard.

I’ve not read the book by Christy Lefteri and had no conception of where the journey of this play were to take me. Adapted for the stage by Nesrin Alreaai and Matthew Spangler it is the subject of refugees and their harrowing tales of being displaced.

This is the story of Nuri and Afra’s journey to England from their home in war-torn Aleppo. Once a vibrant city where Nuri and his cousin Mustafa ran a shop plus kept bees to sell the delicious honey. When the fighting started Nuri and Afra stayed as long as they could as they didn’t want to leave their home, however when their son was killed and Nuri went into hiding, they knew it was time to go.

Their dramatic and traumatic journey took them across several countries and although they did make it to England as refugees, they encountered many huge challenges along the way.

Although this is a fictionalised account of a Nuri and Afra’s journey, it is based on all refugee stories, a narrative on what the experiences of war, displacement, and immigration do to people and their mental health and relationships. Following Nuri and Afra as an audience allowed us to become emotionally attached and be moved by what we saw. We saw the darkest moments, the determination to keep going, how a tiny bit of hope can motivate you to continue, and how when there is no hope, you die inside.

The format of the play wasn’t linear, we knew from they start they made it to England in a house with 8 other nationalities, while waiting for a decision as to whether they can all stay. Their journey was told through alternating scenes, from arriving in the UK and the issues they face trying to get help, and then back from when in Aleppo and the decision to leave. This back and forth worked very well and was executed brilliantly, with no confused timeline for the audience. 

The transitions were smooth, using different parts of the set and the rest of the cast taking on multiple characters. The set design was clever considering the play is set over many spaces, countries and time, with seats in the sand used in many ways and the building in the background also used as a screen to highlight additional scenery. Two great examples are the view across Aleppo before the fighting and after where the destruction of buildings is vast, to the darkness of the sea when crossing on the boat.

A key theme running through was the bees and how their society can be reflected in ours:  bees with no hive have nowhere to go, a new hive and a new home, time to remember we ae never alone and now need to figure out what’s new and how to live a different life.

This is a play which is both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. A reminder of the trauma some refugees face, something which is only going to get worse. We are currently in a time where the number of displaced people around the world is the most it has ever been in human history.

This is a worthwhile play to watch, not only for the great story and fabulous acting, but as a reminder of how thankful we need to be, and how open minded we should be.

This review appeared on GrapevineLIVE


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