My Shrewsbury reviewer Dave Ballinger is moved by a gripping and harrowing production of The Beekeeper of Aleppo at Theatre Severn, which tells the tale of a Syrian couple forced to flee their home and seek asylum in Britain.
There are times when you go to the theatre for music. There are times when you go for laughter. There are times you go to escape the troubles of the modern world for a couple of hours.
And then there is the odd occasion when a production can stop you in your tracks with a story that is so relevant to the world we live in that that it can’t be ignored.
The adaptation of Christy Lefteri’s best-selling novel The Beekeeper of Aleppo at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury this week is one of those times. It tells the story of Syrian couple Nuri and his wife Afra forced to flee their home in Aleppo after their simple family life is destroyed by war to seek asylum in Britain.
It takes you behind the crass headlines about migrants in small boats to tell their story and explore the reasons for their flight from Syria via Turkey and Greece. Beekeeper Nuri (Alfred Clay) and artist wife Afra (Roxy Faridany) live an idyllic life with their son until the horrors of the civil war leaves them devastated and desperate to leave their beloved homeland.
Nuri is the narrator, and must tell his story as he tries to come to terms with what has happened to his family and find a way to live again in the face of a confrontational and at times unhelpful asylum system. The story is at times gripping, devastating, poignant and harrowing.
There is gentle humour from the Moroccan ‘geezer’ with his new-found love of tea with milk and a Union Jack sweatshirt who befriends them at the asylum centre in a heart-warming turn from Joseph Long as.
The story is told with flashbacks to the horrors and dangers of their journey in small boats and stays in refugee camps and the characters they meet along the way – both good and bad. Backed by an ensemble cast who take on the roles of the myriad of characters, the production tells an uncomfortable tale of the modern world we live in.
The setting is simple – reminding you of the ruins of Aleppo which is reinforced when an image of the devastation is projected onto the set. And yet there is hope at the end that the family might be able to come to terms with the devastation they have endured and learn to live again.
A chap sat behind me whispered ‘Wow’ at the end of the production. It’s hard not to disagree having watched this compassionate tale about those who seek asylum. I do also need to read the book now!
There are still tickets available – see www.theatresevern.co.uk for details