So many cushions are piled on the stage as the audience files in that I wondered if there was to be a massive pillow fight. By the end of How to Survive A Swarm of Bees I rather wished there had been one. At least then we might have seen some action. With pillows representing almost anything and everything apart from tomato soup, the audience’s imagination is stretched.
It was difficult to hold very much sympathy for any of the characters, unfortunately. Some of the dialogue was very stop/start, which may be the stilted and naturalistic way that some couples communicate in, but it doesn’t make great theatre. I get that some of it was probably purposefully irritating – the answering of a question with another question, the abrupt and discourteous interruptions and the cross-examination of characters by other characters (none of which are named, by the way) who themselves refuse to answer questions later put to them. The problem for me is that I don’t go to the theatre to be irritated!
The show could have been more fluid. It didn’t really build up tension given the circumstances the two couples find themselves in. The direction, conventionally speaking, is absolutely dire – until you realise its intended purpose, to demonstrate how people get in each other’s faces and invade personal space. In this regard the characters’ movements are well designed, but are still somewhat bizarre in places.
I can’t imagine that faced with a genuine emergency there would be quite so much philosophising going on. The feminists, I would have thought, will take issue with both female characters depicted as dithering and impractical, and at the same time it could be argued that the gentlemen could have done more to insist their partners join them to an apparently safer place.
The final scene was intended, I think, to be emotionally heavy, but crossed over into melodrama, and, given the brevity of the whole piece, was too long. Opportunities to provide both more humour in irrationality and more poignancy in doing things together, even if the ‘wrong’ choice is made, were missed.
It’s only in retrospect that I realise quite how tragic this production is – to its credit, the end is abrupt, thus avoiding any possible prolonged and overdone aftermath scenes. There isn’t even an epilogue. This isn’t a problem here as it’s perhaps better that events are concluded without a tidy mop-up, if only to elicit discussion amongst audience members afterwards.
This show seems to be at its best when it raises more questions than it resolves, but ultimately I found myself disappointingly unengaged. There’s some clever writing in parts, though, with simultaneous dialogues that occasionally snugly overlap like a well-composed multi-layered melody in a decent musical.
Review by Chris Omaweng
A couple sit in their bedroom. She refuses to leave the room. He is desperate to go. Another couple face a dilemma. A storm is coming. And with it a legion of bees. Do they stay or do they leave. And what is on the other side.
New writing by LoFall Theatre Company about two couples manifestations of fear and the world around them. Curated by Isabella Shaw. Presented as part of Evolution, a two day celebration of the groundbreaking, exciting and amazing work which is being produced in our capital. Over two days 100 young artists will be presenting a programme of original and fresh theatre, films and music. Evolution has been made by young artists for young artists.
Lyric Hammersmith 22nd January – 8pm
Bread and Roses 17th-20th March – 7:30pm