Newbury Youth Theatre - The Bee Man of Orn
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Newbury Youth Theatre - The Bee Man of Orn

26th July 2014 and at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Buzzing off to the Fringe

Newbury Youth Theatre's 'bee men' head off to Edinburgh with their inventive and inspiring new show

Newbury Youth Theatre: The Bee Man of Orn, at the Corn Exchange, Newbury on Saturday, July 26

Newbury Youth Theatre is about to embark on its 17th consecutive outing to the Edinburgh Fringe and this year the enthusiastic ensemble of performers have chosen a little-known allegorical children's tale, The Bee Man of Orn by Frank Richard Stockton. It is an ambitious production which the enthusiastic troupe of performers carries off with skill and confidence.

As the audience enters, the cast are buzzing around a minimalist set of hexagonal cubes representing a hive. These shapes are put to good use throughout the hour-long performance, as the cast move in a well- rehearsed rhythm. The cubes are turned into trees, castle battlements and steps.

The performance has a poetic quality to it, as the bee man is told by a junior sorcerer that he has been transformed into a bee man from something else and if he finds out what that something was, the sorcerer will make sure he is restored to his former state.

As he goes on his travels to discover his former identity, various members of the cast take on the guise of the bee man, and each time they look to the audience knowingly and inform us 'the bee man looked completely different as he continued on his journey'.

And so his travels take him to many strange and mysterious places. He ventures to the bottom of the ocean where he meets a pike, created by a group of the performers forming a line which sways from side to side as if swimming in the sea; the huge whale is recreated by the cast with a bubble machine cunningly hidden at the back blowing the bubbles into the air to create the impression of the whale's spout.

When he realises he didn't use to live at the bottom of the ocean, he cannot hold his breath underwater as he thought, he arrives at a castle. Here two comical guards try to prevent him from entering but he circumvents them and lands in the queen's chamber. The lord of the domain kicks him out, so the bee man realises he couldn't have once been a mean person. He moves on to a cave where he meets the Languid Youth who listlessly wishes for more energy, and the Very Imp who tells him that the Ghostly Dragon, who lies in the cave, is enchanted and won't wake up for a thousand years.

In order to rescue a baby from the evil clutches of the dragon, the bee man instinctively realises that he has to throw his bees at it. It is then that he understands that he used to be a baby and wishes he could revert to that state. He calls upon various magical creatures to help him and as they spin around him his coat and hat drop to the floor and a baby complete with bee man-style beard, appears. When the sorcerer visits him once more he recognises that the bee man has grown up to be a bee keeper just as before and order is restored.

Although it is a children's tale, The Bee Man of Orn explores identity, the meaning of friendship and evolution. The young cast have clearly fully immersed themselves in the message behind the story and come up with an inventive and inspiring performance. It would be unfair to single out any one performance, as they work together so well as a team and each has a chance to shine.

It is an assured production, complete with musical interludes which highlight the various talents of the group. NYT has a reputation for putting on five-star performances at Edinburgh and hopefully they will continue that string of success with this year's offering.

GERALDINE GARDNER