Review: The Beekeper of Aleppo at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: The Beekeper of Aleppo at Newcastle Theatre Royal

The Beekeeper of Aleppo – Theatre Royal, Newcastle

6th June 2023

For the second time in a week, I have been moved to tears by a piece of theatre. Like I, Daniel Blake before it, The Beekeeper of Aleppo takes the audience into the world of displaced and disaffected people facing a world of hurts in the face of bureaucracy, fear, and despair. 

The story concerns Nuri and his wife, Afra, who are fleeing Syria in the aftermath of the war that has ripped the country apart for many years. They are both mourning the loss of their son, Sami in their own manner, for reasons which are made apparent during the production. We are introduced to many other characters as they make their way from Syria to the UK via Turkey and Greece. 

Nuri is played with great sensitivity and charm by Alfred Clay and his wife, Afra is performed with some distinction by Roxy Faridany, who I remember from another political TV series ‘This is Going to Hurt’ in which she was also very good indeed. 

These two main characters are joined by multi-role actors, Lily Demir, Daphne Kouma, Alham Mahyoub, Aram Mardourian, Nadia Williams and Fanos Xenofós who play all manner of characters including fellow asylum seekers, nefarious people smugglers, immigration officers and well meaning but largely useless aid workers. A special mention has to go to Joseph Long who plays Mustafa, the cousin of the lead Nuri a beekeeper from Aleppo who taught his cousin everything he needed to know about bees and understanding nature – and a very pragmatic but humorous Moroccan man who has more than a little resemblance to the aforementioned Daniel Blake. 

The set is deceptive in its beautiful simplicity on first viewing but the lighting, sound, film, and effects make it something very special portraying all the areas it needs to without many changes. Designer Ruth Pugh along with a technical team of Ben Omerod, Tingying Dong, Ravi Deepres and Elaha Soroor have teased out all the nuances and drama from the script by author. Christy Lefteri adapted by Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler. The direction by Miranda Cromwell is quite exquisite with some very heart moving sequences and tender moments. 

It would be foolish of me to suggest that The Beekeeper of Aleppo is not political because it is, but like I, Daniel Blake, it strips the message back to the individuals that are experiencing hardship, persecution, and frustration in the face of ludicrous bureaucracy and personal pain. 

On the night, the lady sitting beside me commented at the endthat it was lovely to see so many people in the theatre to watch this play and showed that ‘we are not all against the boats’ referring to the big political issue of asylum seekers risking their lives to get across the cruel sea to, hopefully, a better life in the UK. I could have quite happily given her a hug. 

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an easy watch but there are lighter moments within a story that covers some very weighty topics and is well worth going to see. I would suggest taking some hankies for the end. 

The Beekeeper of Aleppo plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday 10th June.

– Stephen Stokoe

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