Voyages of Asylum

“All you can hear at night are the cries of the lonely and grief stricken.”


We lost our bees, let us see if we can save our children.


“Where there are bees, there is hope.”


Joseph Long as Mustafa and Alfred Clay as Nuri. (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Christy Lefteri’s 2019 best selling novel The Beekeeper of Aleppo was written after she worked at a camp in Athens for refugees.  The stage version now touring is directed by Miranda Cromwell and adapted by Nesrin Alreaai, and Matthew Spangler who adapted The Kite Runner which went to Broadway.  

The book and the play are narrated by Nuri (Alfred Clay) who lived in Aleppo with his wife Afra (Roxy Faridany) and son.  He takes great joy in being trained to keep bees by his cousin Mustafa (Joseph Long).  Afra is an artist and their life in the beautiful city of Aleppo is idyllic until the war.  Nuri witnesses a child and his mother being shot and decides he must leave Syria.

As the book is written switching back and forth from Aleppo to asylum grillings in England using the same set, there are problems in always knowing where we are.  The heaps of sand may work well for Syria but the incongruous winged armchair set into a pile of sand isn’t anywhere I could recognise.  

Alfred Clay as Nuri. (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

What the play does exceptionally well is to place us in the shoes of someone so terrified for his life and that of his family that he has to leave his home and occupation to make a dangerous journey sometimes at the hands of people smugglers.  

We see Nuri on arrival at the port in the UK where Immigration Officers ask him non-stop questions.  We switch back to Aleppo with projected shadows of bees and people holding smoke canisters to calm the bees.  Afra is losing her sight. In the UK Nuri has a caseworker to help with his claim for asylum,  but registering at a GP is refused because they are living in a Bed and Breakfast so Afra has difficulty getting medical help.

There are terrible scenes of destruction in Syria, again using projections of photographs of buildings that are now rubble.  People are shot, building are set fire to and the hive of bees is destroyed by fire, “the bees burnt to a crisp”.  

The scene is projected red as they travel out of Aleppo to the Syrian Turkish border in great danger.  The next part of their path is in Istanbul, where they hear by email from Mustafa who is himself travelling to England, through Macedonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria and France.  

While waiting for the boat to Greece, Nuri meets a child Mohammed (Elham Mahyoub) who appears to be travelling alone.  There is a terrible storm and the stage is all projected waves.  Eventually Nuri and Afra get to Athens but the boy has disappeared.

There are more back story revelations of trauma and hurt including when Afra’s eyesight suddenly deteriorated and Yuri’s mental health suffered.  The performances are good.  Although sometimes difficult to follow,  The Beekeeper of Aleppo engages at an emotional level reminding us all of the humanity of migrants.  

Cast (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Production Notes

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Adapted by Matthew Spangler and Nesrin Alrefaai

from the novel by Christy Lefteri

Directed by Miranda Cromwell



Daphne Kouma

Fanos Xenofos

Joseph Long

Nadia Williams

Roxy Faridany

Alfred Clay

Aram Mardourian

Elham Mahyoub

Lily Demir


Director: Miranda Cromwell

Designer: Ruby Pugh

Composer: Elaha Soroor

Lighting Designer:Ben Ormerod

Sound Designer: Tingying dong

Film Designer: Ravi Deepres


Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes including an interval

Booking at Richmond to 6th May 2023

Then Touring to Norwich, Cambridge, Coventry,

Birmingham, Guildford


Richmond Theatre

1 Little Green




Tube/Rail : Richmond


Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at Richmond Theatre

on 2nd May 2023