This is my first year sampling the Camden Fringe, so I chose a few shows running in the daytime at the tiny Etcetera Theatre above the Oxford Arms on the colourful and characterful Camden High Street.
Be More Bee was an extra show, as I had already booked two later the same day. The premise of a comedy looking at Britain’s favourite insect, the bee, appealed to me.
Jenni Mackenzie-Jones, the delightful co-deviser, writer, co-producer and performer of this piece, let me know the day before that this was a play with audience interaction and was also the first performance before an audience, so I was very intrigued.
On arrival the stage was set with various props such as a paddling pool with plastic ducks, a stool, a pull-along suitcase, some vegetables, a crate, some sticks, a tombola. Under our seats are paper napkins, and our numbered ticket serves as a raffle entry.
Bea is already interacting with the audience, asking our names, making observations, putting us at ease. It becomes clear we are a group arriving into Britain, and we learn about Morris dancing, the social hierarchy of the bee, the vegetable contest, the eroticism of maypole dancing, and more.
This is our show as much as hers, and is never a bore. We bond, we laugh, we meditate, we form a paper chain, we can play games for prizes, and we learn a lot about bees, Bea and each other.
As graduates of the Acting for Collaborative and Devised Theatre course at Central, both Mackenzie-Jones and director Valentin Stoev (also co-devisor and co-producer), are at ease with audience participation (and manipulation, in the nicest way!).
Running slightly over the advertised time, I found Be More Bee paced just right, raising questions and awareness of self and others, and culminating in a surprising and evocative ending.
I very much enjoyed the chance to experience this sweet-centred and clever show, which ran at the Etcetera on 13-14 August.