Bee Detective: the family show that’s got everyone buzzing

Posted on July 30, 2012



Bee Detective’ is a brand-new, accessible family show currently touring UK festivals, delighting children and parents alike. So, what’s the buzz? Limping Chicken asked creator and writer of the show, Sophie Woolley, to give us the honey…

“Bee Detective is a ‘honeybee murder mystery’ set in a hive. It’s the Queen Bee’s birthday and she’s invited lots of human children to help celebrate. The party falls apart because most of the worker bees have disappeared. It’s up to intrepid chief scout bee Sophie Bee to find out where they’ve gone. Her little brother desperately wants to join in with her detective work, and this causes a whole load of trouble.

 “The show is aimed at children over 6 and big kids; it’s about families, and having fun, but it’s also quite scientific. I wanted to reveal things people don’t know about bees and why they’re endangered, but in a funny, exciting and accessible way.

James Merry created beautiful, funny animations that are projected onto a bold set designed by Kat Heath.  Deaf children have different access needs so the actors sign and speak and the dialogue is subtitled in large font at the centre of the action.  It’s a mixture of SSE and stage sign – or Bee Sign Language, because with signs like ‘aware’ the bees don’t use the usual BSL sign, they sign ‘swivelly big eyes on top of head looking around’. Also, children and parents can sit on a hexagonal floor that vibrates during important bee sound effects.”

The show hasn’t been without problems though. Six days before the world premier, Sophie, who was to play the lead role, was knocked off her bicycle by a car, breaking her shoulder in several places. With no time to audition and rehearse with a new actor, director Gemma Fairlie stepped into the role.

“She had to learn all the signs overnight! It was incredible to watch her hold the show together. I shuffled about on painkillers, mumbling directions to everyone. I expected to be able to play the role by the London shows but doctors told me not to. One consolation is that I get to watch the show. It’s great to see the kids getting involved and trying to help solve the mystery, and then join in the waggle dance at the end.

“But we had to find another actor for the Alnwick and London shows, so we cast Elinor Keber. Elinor had only a few days of rehearsals before we went to Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, but she was fantastic and made the part her own.”

And, while the Bee Detective show rumbles along, what else can we expect from actress and writer Sophie?

“There is a fifth episode of Deaf Faker coming soon. I’m very excited about it. I worked with new directors and actors, and the finished work will soon be on YouTube.  I’m also writing a new play, which I’ll be doing an R&D for in October. We’re in an immensely privileged position in the UK, deaf theatre wise. I don’t know if in future we will have this level of investment in deaf cultures so I really do urge deaf audiences to grab it with eyes and hands while it lasts. Oh, and come and see my bees!”

Bee Detective will be showing London’s Southbank Centre on 31st August, 1st and 2nd September at  at 11am, 1.30pm and 4pm. Tickets and further information can be found here.

Watch the trailer for Bee Detective here.

The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, training and consultancyDeafworks, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Look, Smile Chat campaign, and the National Theatre’s captioned plays.

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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