Noises Off - it's a farce
Katie Mitchell under the critical spotlight or do the critics hate Katie?

Provocative and macabre Japanese drama: The Bee @sohotheatre

ImgresThis is a curious little play at the Soho Theatre. Written jointly by Hideki Noda, who also directs and plays Ogoro's wife, and Colin Teevan it's based on a Japanese story called Mushiriai. 

The premise is: Mr Ido (Kathryn Hunter) returns home to find his house cordoned off by police and TV news crews buzzing around. He soon discovers that his wife and son are being held hostage inside by an escaped murderer.

But this play is about challenging the norms and turning the tables and as a result is provocative and quite macabre.

It is imaginatively staged. A small, orange perspex stage is embedded with objects that mirror the few props. There is a table and two chairs and what looks like a mirrored wall across the back of the stage (weird seeing yourself and the rest of the audience staring back across the stage). The wall becomes translucent when the light changes so that some action can take place behind. There is also some imaginative use of elastic bands and pencils.

Kathryn Hunter is at home playing Mr Ido in what is a surprisingly physical performance. The story's Japanese roots come to the fore in brief interludes of what can only be desribed as warrior dance moves. (Think Haka.)

Noda also does a superb job as the murderer's Ogoro's wife. I always judge gender swapping in straight plays by how easy it is to forget that it's a man in drag and this was easy except for what the gender swapping actually adds to the drama. I won't spoil the story by going into plot details but the idea of turning the tables has a more subtle twist when the opposite sex plays the part and I'm curious as to how conscious a decision that was.  

The Bee is quite shocking but not in the OTT way of playwrights like Sarah Kane, this builds to its gruesome conclusion. Chatting to @polyg afterwards there was a lot of debate about how stark and depressing a piece it is - when the victim becomes the aggressor, what hope is there?

But The Bee works on lots of different levels. Turning the tables on the press and putting them in the spotlight, for instance, isn't going illicit too much concern or sympathy but ultimately I felt it was a morality play and on reflection reassuring.

It isn't going to be for everyone but if you want a good, short piece of thought-provoking drama and don't mind feeling a tad uncomfortable by what is unfolding on stage in front of you, go and see The Bee. I'm going to give it four stars.

It runs at the Soho Theatre until February 11 as part of an international tour which takes in venues in Japan and New York. The Bee originally played at the Soho Theatre in 2006.


I've nicked this from the last time I saw Kathryn Hunter: Kathryn Hunter played Mrs Figg in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (another to add to my HP actors I've seen on stage list) which of course starred Daniel Radcliffe who appeared with David Tennant in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and of course Mr Tennant was recently on stage in Much Ado About Nothing with Adam James who was in The Pride with Mr W