From Victim to Monster

What do you do when you come home from work to find your spouse and child taken hostage? In Hideki Noda’s The Bee, Mr. Ido, a Japanese businessman, is faced with just that question. Ido’s reaction takes him to some very dark emotional places, leading him to do things neither the audience nor Ido himself had expected. Eventually finding a bigger evil within himself than in the captor of his wife and child, Ido explores the true nature of the vengeful monster a person can turn into when everything important in his life is taken away by one man, not that different from himself.

In this production at the Japan Society, Hideki Noda explores innovative and economical uses of space and bodies through a seamless collaboration between director, set designer & costume designer, not to mention incredibly skilled actors. We see a cast of four actors portray a myriad of characters, often within the same scene, switching modes at the drop of a hat. The moves were all so skillfully orchestrated that at no point did the audience ever question which character an actor was inhabiting. Simple, but identifiable costume changes came swiftly with a complete shift in physical mannerisms and vocal intonation. It was astonishingly easy to follow an actor as they played several characters within the same scene.

One dynamic in particular that I found especially fascinating is the relationship between Mr. Ido and the wife of his family’s captor. When face to face with her, he inflicts a significant amount of abuse her way, in retaliation for the abuse his family has already been put through. The mirroring of Ido’s life with the life of the man who took away Ido’s family is uncanny, but what’s even more interesting is the way the roles were written/cast. The captor’s wife is played by a male actor, while Mr. Ido, himself, is played by acclaimed British actress Kathryn Hunter. Seeing a female actor in a male role, inflicting physical and sexual abuse upon a male actor in a female role completely turns the typical dynamic of sexual violence on its head. The unison of seeing that gender dynamic take place while the plot of the story simultaneously deals with the victim (Mr. Ido) venomously attacking his original aggressor was a brilliant implementation of form and structure that supports its content in unexpected ways.

After much success at the Soho Theatre in London, The Bee is running at the Japan Society until January 15th. I would definitely recommend getting tickets while you still can!

Michael Montalbano

Columbia University Arts Initiative

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