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To Bee or Not to Bee? 17 May 2017 That’s the question for Felix, whose traumas echo Hamlet’s predicament. Paul Stammers reviews Bartholomew Players' latest show.

Felix is troubled not only by his father’s recent death, but also by his mother’s eradication of the bees from their sunny Cotswold garden (beautifully created by the Players’ set designers, it’s a welcome relief from the greyness outside).

Nick Smith is successfully tense, gauche and kooky-looking as 30-something (artistic licence has been taken here) Felix, who’s plagued by pangs of doubt and failure. When he starts to fashion a noose from a hose, the Shakespearean parallels become acute, before we realise it’s just his way of illustrating the superstring theory he finds so gripping. Thankfully, Jim the gardener (Steve Ashcroft) provides a reassuring, wise presence as past deeds are picked over and the atmosphere gets colder.

For a play that starts out with scientific pretensions, it’s more about matters of the heart than the head. Indeed, the finale is a bit of a tear-jerker.

Most of the black comedy results from the romance between wheeler-dealer George Pye (a tour de force by Richard Buss, a professional actor) and Felix’s vain, yet vulnerable mother Flora (played with considerable skill during Monday’s rehearsal by director Deborah Lisburne Diacon, due to Lesley Robinson being ill - Lesley is due back for the opening night).

Felix’s disgust at his mother’s carrying-on results in colourful spats between him and George, although Felix’s apparently demure and serene ex-girlfriend Rosie (Players’ newcomer Martha Gray) can be rather coarse too. While the vulgar George looms large in most scenes, dithering spinster Mercy Lott (the ever-enjoyable Liz Hutchinson) steals the limelight towards the end - and you won’t ever think of gazpacho the same way again.

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