Nuri (Alfred Clay) and his wife Afra (Roxy Faridany) have fled war torn Syria and Nuri is relaying the story of the journey from Syria to the UK to meet up again with his Uncle Mustafá (Joseph Long). Nuri and Mustafá were both beekeepers in Aleppo before the war and the tragic loss of the hives and the bees. Afra was an artist who sold her pictures in the Souk. She recalls sights and sounds from before her blindness.
The cast, aside from Nuri and Afra take on the various roles extremely well. Joseph Long portrays Mustafa extremely well especially during the email scenes and his other main role (Moroccan man) does get a few laughs. Mohammed/Sami are well portrayed by a very energetic Elham Mayoub. The other roles of immigration officers, doctor, NGO workers Lucy and Nadim are fulfilled by a multi tasking cast.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the production is very true to the original book by Christi Lefteri.
The Quarry Theatre stage sets have to be multi-purpose and this particular set certainly proved to be such and was used well at all times to portray the various scenarios. There is no programme for this production only an information sheet.
The stage adaptation has been creatively done to reflect the various scenarios during the play.
The sounds of the bees and the accompanying visual effects when they were in Syria were repeated during the play. The various projections of the war, the sea travel and other visuals were orchestrated realistically and added immensely to the storytelling. This is not just a tale of the tribulations of a couple making their way to a hopeful new life. It portrays the memories, good and bad of a man and his (blinded by war) artist wife as they drift apart and rediscover each other.
The dealings with officials are particularly interesting as they question Nuri and he relates the stories of the journey to the UK and Yorkshire to join Mustafá and his new bees.
In the foyer there is an information table about the Buzz Project in Huddersfield and honey for sale. This is run by a Syrian bee specialist and well worth a visit before the performance or during the interval.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is on at Leeds Playhouse Quarry Theatre until Saturday (3 June 2023). Well worth a visit and as there were some empty seats there may still be tickets available. Full details and tickets at: leedsplayhouse.org.uk/event/the-beekeeper-of-aleppo
This post was written by reader Barbara Beck in return for two free tickets, as part of South Leeds Goes To The Playhouse.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
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