Me and My Bee - Funny and Informative for Children and (Some) Adults
This review has the potential to either be very depressing, or hopeful. We will just have to see. I will try my best to steer toward the latter.
It is now relatively common knowledge that bees are dying out. Modern consumerism has - to summarise the issue crudely - lead to bees being killed off in an impressive pyramid of torture. We’re poisoning them with pesticides and forcing them to move further and further north as man-made climate change slowly destroys their natural habitats.
Me and My Bee is a show that advertises itself as fun for adults and children alike: it is an invitation to a Bee Party. This party is both an actual party, complete with a party bag (of seeds that will grow into bee-tractive plants), and also a political party campaign. It is a great show, although it is easy for the creators to say it is ‘fun for adults too’ when they’re not the ones stood at the back doing a dance warm-up… without a child. Perhaps ‘fun for parents too’ might be more accurate.
The show, masterfully lead by Josie Dale-Jones and Greta Mitchell, does its job of educating children on the life-and-death cycle of bees. They don’t skirt over the hard truths; probably educating several of the young children for the first time about the harsh notion of death when, for example, we learn that bees only live for mere weeks.
The two performers, aided by Joe Boylan in all of his yellow and black lycra glory, have clearly spent a lot of time honing Me and my Bee. It is informative fun: a sparse set, a few colourful props, yet the three make the show seem a lot larger than it is.
The show is brilliantly staged. The lighting and sound lift the humour. Whenever Josie and Greta drop some particularly gloomy bee news, it cues a strobe light and Carl Orff’s iconic ‘O Fortuna’ from Carmina Burana.
it is a show with a well-constructed narrative, purpose, and delivered with effervescence
This sort of comedy seemed crucial to not prompting the room of children to have an existential crisis. The production has a tricky, even uncomfortable, message that the human race is solely responsible for the downfall of the bees. The show gets the message across while cleverly managing to maintain a level of humour that stops it from becoming too much.
There is a sarcasm that runs though the show especially demonstrated by Josie, that does appeal to adult humour. For example, Josie is thoroughly disinterested in the ongoing love story between the bee (Joe) and flower (Greta). It’s funny because it is a cross-species flirtation that you probably didn’t think you’d see when you woke up that morning, but Josie’s dry sarcasm has that edge of bitter misery that us grown-ups just can’t keep away from.
The variety and pace of the show is consistent throughout, although I did notice a slight lull in the reaction of the kids as we neared the end, but I think that is probably quite normal as they aren’t known for their long attention spans. As a child, I perhaps might have wanted a little more audience participation.
The production could have afforded to utilise the space more and engage with the small audience more frequently. The occasional interaction there, for example ‘pin the stinger on the bee’, is wonderful. Watching a blindfolded small child try to place a human size bee sting on a grown man was hilarious.
This said, it is a show with a well-constructed narrative, purpose, and delivered with effervescence from all three cast members. Their commitment to the show is demonstrable, and their ability to deal with little-hecklers very commendable. Some of the loveliest moments of the show came very naturally through the gorgeous spontaneous nature of an audience of children.
It is the already climate-savvy parent who is likely to take their child to the show, but it is nevertheless quite heartening to see a show clearly engaging its young audience whilst educating them on something that is not yet in fully in our social psyche, although it is hopefully becoming so. Overall, the show is successful in its motive: to inform its audience on the importance of bees. There is hope for the youngest generation, and there we have it, we ended this piece on a high!
- Me and My Bee is touring throughout the UK until November 2018
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