I wasn’t really sure what this show was supposed to be going into it, and now that I’ve seen it, I’m not sure if I have any better an idea. HoneyBee skips gleefully between form and genre, between dance, standup and spoken word, without really landing on any long enough to keep its own internal consistency. Yet somehow, the skill of our main performer – Eleanor Dillon-Reams – manages to string it all together, tenuously balancing different ideas on the tips of her fingers.
A combination of wild youth nostalgia and millennial anxiety
HoneyBee is about a woman who has lost her place in the world - someone in their late twenties with no sense of belonging, and a series of self-destructive habits. She’s in love with her best friend, is deeply jealous of his girlfriend, and is now stuck at a weekend Glasto-esque festival. The narrative, mostly a spoken word performance, takes breaks for short monologues at the audience about “Things I do to make me feel good enough.” This is just one of various skits that occurs throughout the show, designed to shake up the flow, inject a touch of humor and provide space for interactive moments.
The problem with this is that while the breaking in tones is genuinely helpful to add variety, it is detrimental to the structure of the narrative. Time, space and action become unclear because of shifts in and out of the play’s reality, leaving key narrative beats deeply unclear. This is particularly the case around an injury which occurs to the love interest’s girlfriend in the third act, and I still don’t really know what happened there. But the emotional continuity somehow manages to be undisturbed, mostly because Dillon-Reams holistically throws herself into each of the disparate elements. If the script of the show is slightly less fully formed than I’d like, its performer is not – Dillon-Reams displays a range of talent and a surprising level of depth within the hour of this show.
HoneyBee is a good piece of spoken word theatre, with a lot of other disparate elements chucked in that don’t work quite as well. A combination of wild youth nostalgia and millennial anxiety is great in theory, but doesn’t come through in quite the way the performer intended. The end of the show is as good of a microcosm for the entire thing as any – a great piece of poetry from the lead performer, supplemented by speech from the audience that is clunky in execution and slightly contrived in idea.