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Edinburgh Fringe 2022

A Bee Story

Arc Circus and Cluster Arts

Genre: Children's Theatre, Circus, Clown, Physical Theatre

Venue: Underbelly, Bristo Square - Cow Barn



It’s not the only show about bees at the Fringe, but it’s probably the only one with a Queen Bee who plays the flute and makes the best entrance I’ve yet seen at the Fringe.

This is a charming piece that is that rare thing – genuinely entertaining for all the family. The children will laugh at the clowning, adults be impressed by the level of technical circus skills on show and the inventive costumes, with lots of sparkle will appeal to everyone.

On a set that is sparse but remarkably effective and that uses unicycles and umbrellas to represent flowers the dynamic duo of Queen and Drone demonstrate their nerves of steel as they perform daring acrobatics, and demonstrate some truly amazing  acrobatic skills. The use of music is nicely placed, and Rimsky Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee”, although an obvious choice, has been treated to an exciting new arrangement.

The running gag of the best pollen always being slightly out of reach works well and the children in the audience loved the device of using  a different way of trying to reach it every time it came back into focus,  conjuring thoughts of Jack finally getting to the top of the beanstalk in those old fashioned pantomimes.

The plotline of wildfires destroying the hive did not work as well.  A dry ice/smoke effect gives the initial impression that the beekeeper has come along to “smoke” the bees and send them to sleep for a while.  It is only when the sound effect of a crackling fire and a dramatic lighting change occur that the audience realise that it is something far more sinister.  As we moved toward the end of the show the storyline became a little confused. Without the added “drama” of the fire the piece would have been shorter, and thus may have worked a little better for younger children with notoriously short attention spans.  But it would also not have had the strong environmental message it is trying to convey.  Catch 22? Perhaps; but a clearer narrative post-fire would have made all the difference to non-Australian audiences.

The piece has been devised by its performers, Robbie Curtis and Lizzie McRae who are at their best performing the set pieces of circus  – the juggling is particularly impressive – and the grown ups in the audience will wonder at the trust between the performers at certain stages of the show (no spoilers here).  Curtis is also the director and choreographer;  his ability and talent is not in question, but as with many self-directed pieces, this one suffers a little from lack of a second pair of eyes from the outside, particularly towards the end of the show.

At the end of the day, though “A Bee Story” is excellent entertainment.  The juggling alone is worth the ticket money.  Go see it!