Theatre Review: Beekeeper of Aleppo at Nottingham Playhouse

Words: Sam Harvey
Friday 10 February 2023
reading time: min, words

Sam Harvey reviews The Beekeeper of Aleppo... 


How far would you go to protect your family? What dangers would you face? And would life ever be the same again? These are the questions asked in Nesrin Alrefaai’s and Matthew Spangler’s stellar adaptation of Christy Lefteri’s The Beekeeper of Aleppo.

A story spanning the globe, we follow the journey of Nuri (Alfred Clay) a humble beekeeper from war torn Aleppo and his wife Afra (Roxy Faridany) as they escape the perils of their home and journey across the Middle East and Europe to be reunited with his cousin and mentor, Mustafa (Joseph Long). Their travels are plagued by traumas both old and new, from perilous sea crossings and refugee camps to the cold, unfeeling bureaucracy of the Home Office, Beekeeper of Aleppo reveals and humanizes struggles and lived experiences that are unfortunately only too common in our modern times. Audiences are faced with the uncomfortable truth that the world we live in is one of conflict and strife- yet moments of love, laughter and tenderness are what shine through in this play. Showing that human nature has the ability to persevere even when the situation is at its darkest.

The physical and mental impacts are dealt with differently by each character

Alfred Clay and Roxy Faridany excel as a husband and wife forced to come to terms with the loss of their son, Sami (Elham Mahyoub). The physical and mental impacts are dealt with differently by each character- exploring how grief can manifest within a person, rendering them unrecognisable. Joseph Long delivers a standout performance, not only as kind-hearted and warm beekeeper Mustafa, who’s correspondence with Nuri drives him forward and provides hope even in the bleakest of times, but also as the Moroccan Man who provides brevity when the couple finally arrive in England. His view on British culture from the perspective of an outsider is not only humorous but alleviating. The supporting cast should also be commended for their portrayal of stoic civil servants, unscrupulous human traffickers and tragic refugees from across the globe.

It is not only the actors who help carry the play, but the set itself. Designed by Ruby Pugh, the set tells its own story- contrasting the comforts of home with the bleak and barren desolation of a war-torn country. The symbolism used to portray displacement and the feeling of unfamiliar surroundings is on full display. Multimedia is used to full affect, with projections utilised to further enhance the story telling experience. Music, text and projections come together to create a unique atmosphere that faithfully brings Christy Lefteri’s novel to life.

Overall, ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ provides a sobering portrayal of the modern refugee crisis, phenomenally acted the play touches on all aspects of fleeing from war without coming across as distasteful or cliché, all the while a heartfelt message interspersed with moments of humour provide a throughline which all audiences can relate to. I feel confident in giving this performance 5 stars.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo plays at the Nottingham Playhouse from Friday 10th of February 2023 until Saturday 25th of February 2023. 

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