Unicorn theatre, London
In Roland Schimmelpfennig’s play, three actors narrate a day in the life of a young person who uses imagination to escape a precarious existence
For his first season in charge of the Unicorn, Justin Audibert spun a brilliant web of tales featuring the spider Anansi. After that arachnid trickster comes a bee story, similarly told by a trio of actors nimbly sharing the role of narrator.
Written by German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig and translated by David Tushingham, The Bee in Me is aimed at audiences over eight and isn’t as twee as that title may suggest. It can feel as stark and austere as its opening image: a single bed with white sheets but no one tucked into it. This, we are told, is where you sleep – and the show proceeds to use the second-person voice, with its nameless 10-year-old hero remaining conspicuously absent as we hear about a day in their life. As such, the audience are encouraged to imagine themselves experiencing the child’s life of neglect. But the narrators (Akshay Sharan, Emily Burnett and James Russell-Morley) also capture the internal dialogue of a young person navigating a precarious life.