Japanese play The Bee, is currently on its British leg of a world tour and is making a welcome return to The Soho theatre after six years.
The adaptation by Hideki Noda OBE and Colin Teevan (The Great Game) is a ferociously comic and terrifying story set entirely in a residential street in Tokyo 1974.
Our everyman Mr Ido (played brilliantly by Kathryn Hunter) arrives home to find his house surrounded by police and TV cameras. Inside his wife and child are being held hostage by Mr Ogoro, an escaped murderer. His efforts to communicate with Ogoro are blocked by the police due to the fact that the hostage-taker is a stutterer and grows upset by anyone more articulate than himself.
In a bid to reason with Ogoro, Ido uses the waiting press as a channel to express his sympathies and reach a safe resolution, however the baying press urge Ido for increasingly hysterical, dramatic performances to camera. This direct plea to Ogoro ends in futility and soon afterwards it surfaces that that the hostage-taker has a wife and child, who both refuse to speak to him.
Running out of patience, Ido persuades one of the ‘cops’, Anchoku (imagine a cross between Life on Mars’ DCI Gene Hunt and the two detectives from Hot Fuzz) to take him to visit Ogoro’s wife (referred to as Ogoro’s wife) to persuade her to reason with her estranged husband in order to bring this nightmare to an end.
Hilariously things don’t go to plan when Anchoku asks her if she’s going to, ‘wave her perfect titties at the yakuza and the salarymen’?… The meeting doesn’t end well and as Ido grows increasingly desperate he clobbers Anchoku over the head with a nearby baseball bat and demands that Ogoro’s wife reasons with her estranged husband, before it’s too late.
She won’t. And events take a horrifying turn.
Between the terror of Ido’s now sadistic actions, there are surprising, finely tuned comic moments that sparkle through physical theatre and the laugh out loud acting of Glyn Pritchard (who plays Anchoku / Oguoro / Ogoro’s Son) and Hideki Noda (who is side-splitting as Ogoro’s wife). Their transitions between characters and the use of mime cultivate a beautifully fluid piece and are movingly complimented by the lighting design by Rick Fisher and Christoph Wagner.
Moreover, mention should be made of Yokio Horio’s imaginative set design consisting of unsettling bright red tiles and a semi-transparent back wall through which we see the indolent detective, Dodoyama (comically played by Clive Mendus).
The Bee is an innovative piece that expertly veers from comic farce to horror to horror-comedy whilst making thought provoking statements on the causes and nature of revenge and what happens when a seemingly ordinary man is driven to the brink.
I would urge you to see it.
The Bee is playing at the Soho Theatre in London until Saturday 11th February, (£10-£17.50)