The Bee @ Soho Theatre, London

cast list
Kathryn Hunter
Hideki Noda
Tony Bell
Glyn Pritchard

directed by
Hideki Noda
What would you do if your family were being held hostage? Sit tight and trust the police or embark on a maverick mission to save them?

Returning home, Japanese businessman Mr Ido stumbles straight into this scenario and finds his wife and his six-year-old son being held by escaped convict Ogoro, while police and reporters swarm in the street outside.

But rather than accepting his fate as victim, Ido, embarks on a horrific game of tit for tat which sees him maiming Ogoro’s son and raping his wife while he holds the pair to ransom.

Set in Tokyo in 1974 and based on an original story by Yasutaka Tsutsui called Plucking at Each Other, The Bee, explores what happens when the weak become the strong and the hunter becomes the hunted, and how, no matter how horrific, people learn to accept the status quo.

Co-written by Hideki Noda, who also directs and stars in this play as Ogoro’s Wife, this dark, satirical production has a poetic script packed with rhyming couplets that explores the unscrupulous nature of the media.

Legendary in his native Japan, Hideki Noda, lights up the stage in the role of the lap dancer/earnest mother, a casting descision that works well alongside Olivier winning Kathryn Hunter’s expertly executed turn as Ido.

By setting these two diminutive performers side by side, each playing a character of the opposite gender, the menacing, unnatural change in Ido’s personality is made all the more chilling.

This production races along at one helluva pace, with Ido being bombarded by news-hungry reporters and coming up against the officious but inept, Inspector Dodoyama, played by Tony Bell. The frantic nature of the early scenes effectively conveys the stress and angst Ido feels, as reporters hang on his every word, wrapping him up in their microphone cables as they chase after the perfect sound bite.

The pace however slows as Ido starts to assume greater control and switches to deviance rather than apathy: “I have no aptitude for being a victim,” he says quite coolly before inducing this embarking on his revenge.

The Bee may start as a frenetic jostle but it gently rolls to a standstill with the same quotidian ritual being repeated in ever decreasing circles till the lights and Ogoro’s wife’s resistance fades.

Miriam Buether’s set is a true work of art which effortlessly compliments the script. It looks like a Bento box, with its contrasting deep reds and blacks and objects melded into the resin. But most spectacular of all is the pitching of a mirror as the back drop to the stage, suggesting the parallel stories taking place in each household as this history of vengeance progresses.

Sinister and entertaining, horrifying and captivating, The Bee, is a brutal tale of bitter revenge, quite unlike anything else. Highly recommended.

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