Writer: Christy Lefteri
Adaptor: Nesrin Alreaai and Matthew Spangler
Director: Miranda Cromwell
Originally a novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo has been transformed for stage and has drawn in sizable audiences whilst on its UK tour. It is a poignant and powerful tale, originally written by Christy Lefteri, about a man named Nuri, a Syrian beekeeper, and his wife Afra, an artist, as they embark on a treacherous journey from war-torn Aleppo to find safety in Europe. The couple’s lives are shattered by the devastating conflict, leaving them scarred both physically and emotionally. Forced to leave behind their beloved homeland and face the perils of the refugee crisis, they navigate a world filled with uncertainty, loss, and heartache.
Throughout their journey, Nuri and Afra encounter fellow refugees, aid workers, and individuals who both help and hinder their progress. The play, albeit not quite as successfully as the novel, delves into their personal struggles, including grief, trauma, bereavement and the desperate search for hope amidst the ruins of their lives. Lefteri’s evocative prose offered significant opportunity for Nesrin Alreaai and Matthew Spangler to bring to life the vivid landscapes and emotions explored in her narrative, in the hope of transporting the audience into the heart of the refugee experience. Unfortunately, this was not wholly realised and the audience seemed to be far less affected by this story than they otherwise might have been.
From the rubble-strewn streets to the worn-down refugee camp, the set exuded authenticity and created a powerful backdrop for the unfolding narrative. Ruby Pugh’s creation provided a sparseness and simplicity that helped to realise and evoke a profound sense of place and context, whether physical or imagined through suspended disbelief. The script was heavily aided by the use of set and video footage but as a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s difficult to articulate effectively the true impact of such devastation. The footage was particularly helpful in transporting the audience to war-torn Syria and immersing them in the harrowing reality of the protagonist’s journey.
The lead actors, in particular Alfred Clay (Nuri) and Joseph Long (Mustafa), delivered convincing performances that resonated the audience. Their ability to convey the whole human experience felt genuine and authentic; exploring hope and despair, love and loss simultaneously extends to the audience some understanding of the trauma felt. The portrayal of Nuri, the beekeeper, was imbued with a sense of quiet strength and vulnerability, drawing the audience into his world and allowing them to connect with his experiences on a deeper level. Equally impressive was the performance of his Angeliki, played by Nadia Williams, whose journey through grief and resilience was portrayed with nuance and sensitivity.
The story of The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a profound exploration of the resilience of the human spirit, highlighting the power of love, friendship, and the pursuit of a better future. It sheds light on the plight of refugees, urging the contemporary audience to better empathize and more acutely understand the migrant struggle. Though far removed from the audience’s own experience, this play reminds those seated comfortably in an airconditioned, state of the art facility, that our freedom and daily experience is a privilege. Though not a feat of theatre, the production offers a healthy opportunity to reflect on the universal themes of loss, displacement, and the enduring strength of the human soul.
Runs until: Saturday 24th June 2023