The Bee In Me, written by one of Germany’s most exciting contemporary playwrights, Roland Schimmelpfennig, is currently running at the Unicorn Theatre. I spoke with Unicorn Associate Director Rachel Bagshaw to find out more.
How did you get into theatre?
I got involved in theatre at secondary school, and knew pretty early that I liked directing! At university I directed quite a bit of mad experimental performance which was lots of fun. I then worked in theatre marketing and participation before directing full time, experiences which really inform how and why I make the work I do.
Can you tell me about The Bee In Me?
The play tells the story of a day in the life of one child. His life is really tough – a really difficult home life with alcoholic parents who don’t take care of him. So to get through the day, he plays a game in his head in which he imagines himself to be a bee. It’s a really playful, beautiful show which at the same time deals with a really difficult and timely subject.
What is it about the show that appeals to you?
Roland’s play is something really special – a play for children which speaks just as much to adults. It feels like a really simple story – but it’s also such an epic adventure. His writing is extraordinary, both action packed and poetic. I love how the play explores the capacity of imagination to create new worlds for the child – it’s what I believe theatre can do in us all, and there’s no better audience to make that happen than at the Unicorn.
How do you go about directing a show for younger audiences?
I tend to approach it in pretty much the same way as I would any other show – which is to say, to really work out what the play needs. I don’t have a fixed process – I tend to just work out what each project needs, and then evolve things again depending on the actors in the room. Every show has it’s own world and I see it as my job to find the many different ways to make that come to life. Where things differ is what we learn in previews from younger audiences – they are so responsive and tell us very quickly is something isn’t working and needs changing!
What can audiences expect?
As I’ve mentioned, on one level this is a really simple show – it’s just three performers in a very minimalist space. But what Khadija Raza, our designer, has created is a space in which the child’s wild imagination can run riot so the audience can imagine with him. It’s funny, sad and exciting – young audiences will love the amazing computer game music and lights whilst adults might connect more with the emotional heart of the story.
What would you like audiences to take away from the show?
That this story is the reality for many children in the UK right now. Nearly a third of children are living in poverty, a number that is set to rise over the next few years. But also that the child in the play manages to escape his reality through imagination. Creativity can transport us to extraordinary places, and all children need to have the opportunity to experience this.
Can you describe The Bee In Me in three words?
Epic, imaginative, hopeful.
The Bee In Me runs from until 1st March.
Photo credit: Helen Murray