“What are you doing here” asks the interviewer at Nuri’s asylum assessment. We know from the beginning of The Beekeeper of Aleppo that Nuri and his wife Afra make it to the UK. What we learn throughout is just how traumatic their journey from Syria was.
An affecting production that speaks to moment when the refugee crisis has fallen off the headlines
Miranda Cromwell directs Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Christy Lefteri’s novel. Alrefaai and Spangler do an impressive job of condensing the contenant spanning story. The script is truthful to the book and impressively captures the fractured trauma of Nuri, as the audience piece his story.
The piece moves through time and space, dancing across Ruby Pugh’s expansive and surreal set. The design shifts into whatever it needs to be next; doctor’s surgery, wartorn Aleppo, boarder crossing, open sea and even an expression of Nuri’s own injurred mind.
Lighting by Ben Ormerod and film projection from Ravi Deepres transforms the space with a cinematic flare. Moments of Lefteri’s novel, like Afra’s eyes, Sami’s marble and the bees are super imposed. It is a vivid visual version of Lefteri’s evocative imagery, which, in the novel, traverses between realism and symbolism.
It takes a while to ease into the narrative with fragments coming into slow focus. We get glimpses of the ordinary lives that Nuri and Afra once lived in Aleppo and then the humiliation of the UK asylum system.
Alfred Clay as Nuri is stoic and still, yet we are with him all the way. His messured performance makes the final reveal all the more compelling. Time melts together and Nuri’s PTSD means he is always reliving momements. Roxy Faridany has a challenging job in bringing Afra alive, but her guarded performance is honest and humble.
The ensemble performances are rich and varied, with a cast of nine multiroling the characters whom Nuri and Afra meet on their journey. Elham Mahyoub as the young Mohammed and Sami has a haunting innocence and serves as a reminder of the human cost at the heart of this story.
Cromwell’s is an affecting production that speaks to moment when the refugee crisis has fallen off the headlines. The harrowing tales of people fleeing war persist, yet audience are soldom confronted by them in such a humanising way.