WE NEED BEES | STAGE REVIEW
Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon, Thurs 3 June
It’s been a long wait – for playwrights, performers and punters alike. Now, finally, Theatr na nÓg are back on stage in the fittingly al fresco setting of King George V field (adjacent to this morning’s hosts, Theatr Brycheiniog) for this Welsh Government Test Event.
Parents came prepared with e-ticket, track and trace info and photo ID. Small offspring, borrowed nieces and nephews and bubbling grandparents all waited in line, with camping chairs and picnic blankets, to be allocated a fenced off portion of the field. The weather was undecided – and so was my three-year-old son, who can’t remember theatre trips from the before time.
A little square of grass, big enough for a family and marked out by themed bunting on a bamboo frame, awaited us. The excitement and anticipation were growing: were we really going to see live performers perform, live? And then, just as the audience were all seated, the face masks had come off and the actors were about to take to the stage, my son needed the toilet.
By the time we raced back, the opening song of We Need Bees was in full swing and there were a lot of happy faces in the audience. Katherine Chandler’s witty script plays on social distancing, three-word mantras and a pot full of bee-related puns. The three performers brought the magic and wonder of bees to life, bouncing around the stage while acting, singing, playing instruments and even getting the audience up on their feet for the waggle dance – a sort of satnav hokey cokey to help the hivemind find its groove.
James Ifan was excellent as the hero, Bertie Bee, who wants to be more than a drone. His best friend Bron, played perfectly by Lara Lewis, is on the up and up as a pollinator but suffers from PTSD thanks to a run-in with a crab spider in an earlier fly-by adventure. But stealing the show is the multi-rolling Aled Herbert, who goes from a Windsor Davies-style sergeant major named Beelko to an Elvis-impersonating butterfly, a tuneless song thrush and the aforementioned crab spider.
By the time this final character appeared, making the most of Barnaby Southgate’s silly songs and deft score, everyone was completely won over and ready to waggle-dance one more time. A safe, silly and satisfyingly sweet return to the theatre that was as much fun for the grateful performers as it was for the happy audience.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES photos SIMON GOUGH