The Silence of Bees

New play by the writer of Roadkill explores family tensions against a backdrop of bee-keeping

This moving site-specific piece written and directed by Stef Smith, award-winning playwright behind 2010’s human trafficking drama Roadkill, focuses on three generations of women who have dedicated their lives to bee-keeping and honey production. Grandmother Ginny (Joanna Tope) is the trailblazer, successfully nurturing her business but faced with a painful family dilemma that is only revealed after her death. Ginny comes into conflict with her daughter Joan (Lesley Hart) over how the business should be run while Joan’s growing sense of resentment at immersing herself in the company to the exclusion of her own personal happiness is later reflected in her difficult relationship with her own daughter, Katie (Kirsty Stuart).

Along the way Smith’s text, beautifully performed by the cast, takes in the threat to the environment posed by pesticides and the dichotomies faced by women in business, and mourns the slow death of old-fashioned independent food production companies at the hands of multi-nationals. These political points are made subtly in the script and reinforced by staging the production in cosmetics shop Lush with its pervading honey scent and stacks of colourful bath-bombs created using natural ingredients and without resort to animal testing. Augmenting the soothing, mellow atmosphere is the continuous note of middle C – the frequency at which bees’ wings move.

While Lush is an inspired choice of backdrop for its atmosphere and symbolism, the space could perhaps have been used more imaginatively rather than having the audience face the performers across a counter. As things stand the production feels a little lacking in movement both physically and textually. The strong cast and Smith’s script, which convincingly evokes inter-generational tension and the suffering caused by lack of communication in families, deserves a slightly more dynamic production.

The Silence of Bees, Lush, 136 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, until Sat 14 Apr. Part of Behaviour 2012.

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