11 September 2012
Written by Sophie Woolley & Directed by Gemma Fairley Tin Bath Theatre Company’s Bee Detective is a family show about the life and work cycle of bees. Liz Porter saw the show at the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre
On entering Sophie Bee’s world I instantly recognised Sophie Woolley’s writing style. Although the part was not played by Sophie (who sadly broke her arm literally a few days before the first show went up in Brighton last May!) intelligence and wit shine through with integrity and a sound environmental and educational message. An exciting and fun production, that works on many levels. Performed well by all cast members.
This was much more than good Theatre in Education, for the company and technical crew were exploring innovative ways to incorporate access particularly for Deaf and hearing impaired audience members. Digital media features strongly. Captioning and animation work with the large almost cartoon-like physicalised Sign Supported English, which emphasises each of the three main character’s performances. The colourful tactile costumes stand out. A honeycombed set surrounds us. We sit around it’s central focus - an octagon shaped vibrating floor that pulsates with every piece of music engaging us to move and join in where asked – and of course experience how some Deaf and hearing impaired people relate to music.
We learn about Queen Bee’s dominating and petulant poohing of eggs throughout the day – there’s a lot of pooh and jokes about sick, within this show – which naturally appealed to the children and child within us. It’s QB’s birthday but there’s no cake. All the baby bee’s in the nursery are getting ill and where are the worker bees? Oh no… trouble at foot. Sophie comes to the rescue. Girl power rules in this world and Sophie’s poor Drone Brother is subjected to belittlement and bullying, it’s understandable that he is drawn into the clutches of the wicked mite (proffering friendship) when he’s really up to no good spreading disease amongst all the bees. Sophie wins the day, and just as in real Bee world her brother is destined to be kicked out of the beehive.
The company hadn’t just thought about the needs of their Deaf and hearing impaired audience. I was provided with large print programme and I’m sure if I’d asked for it would have been offered a touch tour of the set and some form of narrative description, which was indicated in the programme notes. I felt included – something I don’t always within Deaf theatre experiences.
I thought it was great fun and sat there phantasising about all the places this show could work in and be sold too, parks, festivals, natural history and science museums and schools etc. So I was a bit disappointed to learn from Sophie that the company are putting the show on hold for now.
I really hope they will regenerate it at some point in the future because it’s a cracker. As for Sophie Woolley she’s off for an adventure in South Africa and then it is hoped she might collaborate with GRAEAE on a project – now that will be something to experience and inject some new thinking around accessible theatre for Deaf and hearing audiences.
For more information about Tin Bath Theatre please go to www.tinbaththeatre.com/