Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Honey Bees, June 17, 2016 **1/2

Written by Caleb Lewis, Red Stitch 
At Red Stitch, St Kilda, from June 17 to July 16, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on June 17, 2016
Stars: **1/2
Review also online at Herald Sun Arts on Mon June 20 and in print after that. KH
Marta Kaczmarek & Christopher Brown - Photo Jodie Hutchinson

On an isolated, Western Australian apiary – let’s call it a honey farm – a dysfunctional family confronts the possibility of bee ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ that mirrors the disintegration of their family unit in Caleb Lewis’s play, The Honey Bees.

The dramatic potential of the play and its premise are not fully realised in Ella Caldwell’s uneven production for Red Stitch Actors Theatre.

Since her husband’s death, Joan (Marta Kaczmarek) struggles to run the honey business with her daughter, Clover (Rebecca Bower), and Clover’s partner, Kerrie (Katerina Kotsonis), but son, Daryl (Christopher Brown) returns to rescue the farm with his plan to sell 600 healthy, Australian hives to the US.

The sale is in jeopardy after the arrival of Melissa (Eva Seymour), a funky, young stranger who crashes her car, destroying over 100 hives.

Kaczmarek is compelling and wry as Joan, the matriarch whose iron grip and dogged determination to maintain the farm strangles the life out of her adult children.

Bower imbues Clover with a hapless naiveté as she blithely carries on tending her dead father’s bees, foolishly believing that her colourful, organic hives will avert any impending disaster.

Brown plays the returning prodigal son, Daryl, with a hint of desperation and recklessness, while Kotsonis’s Kerrie represents the sad inevitability of the family’s failure and Seymour’s Eva reminds them all of their isolation and unrealistic hopes.

Much of Lewis’s brisk, clipped dialogue sounds unnatural out of the mouths of the cast and it becomes more awkward when delivered with languid pace, loose cueing and limited emotional connection between characters.

Despite a strong and emotional final scene led by Kaczmarek, the production lacks dynamic range and it is difficult to sympathise with Lewis’s characters who are all rather pallid or disagreeable.

With its gritty, red sand and piles of greying, wooden boxes, Sophie Woodward’s design expresses the grim and tough environment, although it provides little sense of the various locations on the farm.

The mysterious disorder that has decimated the honey industry in every continent other than Australia could provide a strong framework for a family drama but this production and script of The Honey Bees is, ultimately, less than engaging.

By Kate Herbert 

Ella Caldwell - Director
Marta Kaczmarek
Christopher Brown
Rebecca Bower
Katerina Kotsonis
Eva Seymour
 Eva Seymour, Marta Kaczmarek & Christopher Brown - Photo Jodie Hutchinson

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