The Bee was originally staged at the Soho Theatre in 2006 before returning to Japan and winning all the major theatre awards there. It is now back in London again in between stints in New York and Hong Kong and its easy to see why the Japanese audiences took this play to their hearts. Hideki Noda and Colin Teevan’s play may be based on Yasutaka Tsutui’s short story Mushiriai (Plucking At Each Other) but the plot feels like the unholy love child of Quentin Tarantino and Michael Winner.
There’s much to commend The Bee, especially to people who don’t normally go to see plays. There are some beautifully theatrical touches like the way three actors and the few props are constantly being re-purposed into new characters and objects; Mr Noda plays the hostagetaker’s wife while Kathryn Williams as never-less-than-enthralling Edo, a man driven to ever more desperate measures.
Fans of flicks from the Land of the Rising Sun like Audition or Battle Royale will recognise how the initially commonplace setup becomes a steep descent into the more barbaric aspects of human nature. We think, though, that the writers looked West for inspiration: while the first half is a triumph of slapstick comedy and media satire, the latter half, with its themes of bloody vengeance and vigilantism, comes across as a Michael Winner wet dream – surely it can be no coincidence that The Bee is set in 1974, the year that Deathwish was released? – with a Tarantinoesque attitude to brutal logic. Compared to this, Titus Andronicus is a sunny day at the seaside.
The Bee continues at the Soho Theatre until 11 February. More information can be garnered here.