DramaNorth WestReview

The Beekeeper of Aleppo – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

Writer: Christy Leftieri

Adaptor: Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler

Director: Miranda Cromwell

“Just focus on your story” the British immigration officer advises. It is a brutal, personal story of the global refugee crisis. One story in millions of displaced people. Christy Leferti’s award-winning 2019 bestseller has been adapted for the stage in association with Nottingham Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres with thought, care and excellent staging.

Nuri (Alfred Clay) and his wife Afra (Roxy Faridany) have a normal life. Surrounded by family, friends and a new passion for beekeeping, life is as normal as normal is before war rips apart their country, their lives and their hometown of Aleppo. Informed by first-hand experiences of volunteering in Athens in a refugee centre, Leftieri’s story is one of hope in a world that has become punishingly bleak: the one thing that can remain in a Pandora’s box of evils. Following his cousin, Mustafa (Joseph Long), across Europe to England, Nuri and Afra (who has been blinded, literally, by grief embark on a dangerous journey through countless countries and processing centres – meeting people smugglers, aid volunteers and migrant officials in their hope to gain a new home.

Director Miranda Cromwell, who had tremendous success with the stage adaption of The Kite Runner, has the responsibility of trying to encapsulate a crisis of enforced migration (more in the last two decades than ever before) into two hours stage time. Nuri’s story is just one of millions. Cromwell uses a variety of techniques to progress the narrative, most effectively the use of projection and physical theatre. Clay and Faridany occasionally ‘speed up’ time with quickened, repeated physicality and Ravi Deepres projected film design can transport us from the idyllic, once peaceful city of Aleppo to a dangerous rough crossing of the sea on a migrant boat. Ruby Pugh’s design, at first sight seemingly bland, allows easy transportation from place to place – a sofa chair protruding from a mound of khaki beige to locate a few specifics on a long, sprawling journey.

The cast, generally, are excellent, with Clay and Faridany the only members not doubling or trebling into a sea of faces the couple experience. Daphne Kouma’s demeaning and condescending immigration officer who demands Nuri hum the Syrian national anthem and tries to trip him up with trick questions about his home city is of particular note.

Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler have an enormous task in adapting from page to stage. In the main they succeed, bringing the show in at two hours and keeping attention. Cromwell crashes scenes together effectively with alacrity and the non-linear structures serves the storytelling well. The metaphor of bee colonies to highlight the central themes of collective community and leaving the hive are clever but used a little too often in the script and can be a little on-the-nose and at times the adaptation can feel a little unrelentingly bleak. Thought-provoking and worthwhile maybe but in terms of light and shade it all too often falls into the darker. That said, the creatives have kept the over-arching theme of hope central to the piece and despite the turbulence and trauma of the journey.

It is playing the main stage of The Lowry’s theatre – a large auditorium mostly likely demanded by ticket sales due to the popularity of the novel. On the plus side it means the impressive stage pictures can be realised but on the other it will always lose a more personal touch. A touching, eye-opening and impressive show.

Runs until 22 April 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Touching and impressive

Show More
Photo of The Reviews Hub - North West

The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

Related Articles

Back to top button
The Reviews Hub