Smashing it in Alnwick

The buzz around the hive is that Elinor Keber made a very excellent debut as Sophie Bee at the beautiful Alnwick Garden. Here she is in action. Check out our facebook page for more pics.

Sophie Bee in bee costume doing a disco pose hand pointing

Elinor Keber as Sophie Bee, with Daniel Alun as Barnabee








The punters at Alnwick Gardens like like LIKED show. They were saying:

“All of it was good. I loved the actors”

“Loved all of it”

“Great show, great that it was signed, lots going on”

“Really liked that the show was signed and subtitled as well as spoken and the dancing at the end was good fun as well”

Yeehaa! London Unlimited Festival here we come! Bee ready!

A big thank you to Alnwick Gardens for bringing us such amazing audiences. The actors had brilliant fun and enjoyed the interaction with children.

Sophie Bee (Elinor Keber) said: “In the third show this afternoon, two small boys shouted “you’re rubbish” at me quite relentlessly (they wanted the boy bee to win). I’m trying not to take it as a slur against my acting”.



Casting news: Welcoming Elinor Keber – the new Sophie Bee

Like Doctor Who, the detective bee in our play has become a character that regenerates every so often, with a new actor taking over the role.

Swift recap of all the casting drama for newbies (if you’ve heard it all before, skip to PART 2.). I  was meant to be playing Sophie Bee (as well as writing the script) but a car knocked me off my bike on the way to rehearsals, breaking my shoulder. So Gemma our director stood in for my role for the first part of our tour.


We’ve just recast the role so that Gemma Fairlie (Sophie Bee #2) can resume full time directing of the show.

So, with great pleasure and excitement I’d like to announce that the new Sophie Bee (#3) is the lovely Elinor Keber, who impressed us at the original auditions back in February. I am looking forward to seeing what she makes of the intrepid bee detective and self-nominated ‘best waggle dancer IN THE WORLD’.

Sophie Woolley with arm in a blue sling

Sophie Bee No.1

Gemma Fairlie – second regeneration of the Dt. Bee who gained a following of beestung fans with her performances.

Elinor is cramming lines and will rehearse the role before our Alnwick dates in Northumberland (13-15 July).

Inother newz, we had a great time at Unity Festival last month and loved the Cardiff audiences! Thanks Wales xxx

After Alnwick we come to London for nine shows over a weekend at Southbank Centre (30 Aug/1-2 Sept). I’ll be putting in an appearance on a panel discussion on 30 August at 2pm. Looking forward to sitting next to some  VERY impressive artists. More on that in my next blog.

I was also excited to see one of my honeybee experts has a new book out called The Urban Beekeeper. Steve Benbow has been a great supporter and mentor in the script writing process.

Elinor Keber – latest actor to play Dt Sophie Bee, who buzzed with excitement on twizzer this week: “Delighted to bee on board.”


Bee Detective villain hits the headlines

The villain in our play is getting a lot of much deserved publicity in today’s news. New research shows that the varroa mite has helped decimate billions of bees around the world.

Dr Stephen Martin, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences said: “Just 2,000 mites can cause a colony containing 30,000 bees to die. The mite is the biggest problem worldwide for bee keepers; it’s responsible for millions of colonies being killed.”

Snot green varroa mite in military uniform

Portrait by James Merry. We cannot show you a photo for legal reasons.

The problem is that humans transport honeybees around the world, and the varroa mites invade new bee populations that way. Bee keepers used to treat infested bees using chemicals, but because the chemicals were made by the same companies that made the pesticides and insecticides spayed on crops, the varroa mites became immune. The mites spread the DWV virus.

Our play shows how you can fight varroa organically, in order to help bees develop their own way of resisting varroa mites. In recent years town gardeners have learnt to farm more organically, and so honeybees have thrived in towns. But the varroa mites are still the main problem for the urban bees like the ones in our show.

Today’s breaking varroa news stories: BBC News and The Guardian and Sheffield researcher press release.

Our drone bee Barnabee has the Deformed Wing Virus revealed in today’s news – check out his ragged wings! The mites change the DWV virus making it much more deadly for bees.
Cartoon drawing of boy bee with his jedi knight saber

Breaking news on BBC2

See Hear filmed the show at our opening weekend. You can watch again now here on iPlayer.

It’s a lovely piece (thanks See Hear honeyz!) featuring the cast, director-turned-understudy Gemma Fairlie, producer Michelle Owoo and myself in a sling. Presenter, Memnos Costi brought his family to see the show. Seeing it all looking so great on TV cheered me up following the latest hospital news on my broken shoulder. The doctor banned me from acting in Bee Detective for the rest of the tour. I’ve seen the physio therapist too and he said I shouldn’t even attempt to devise a more static, less physical version of Sophie Bee.

Sophie Woolley with arm in a blue sling

Sophie Woolley - ex bee.

I’m trying to steel my nerves and look on the bright side. The good news is we have a great show and I will make a full recovery eventually. Michelle and I have been writing to deaf groups, parents of deaf children and deaf parents in Cardiff, Northumberland and London in the hope that they will come and see Bee Detective – a totez accessible show with full captions, a signing cast and pots of stupendously classy animation by James Merry. Here are the dates and booking links. Please help us to spread the buzz!



CARDIFF Unity Festival 23/24 June (shows at 11am, 1.30pm 4pm). WMC.

ALNWICK garden, Northumberland 14/15/16 July (shows at 11am, 1.30pm 4pm).

LONDON Unlimited Festival 31 August, 1 & 2 September at Southbank Centre (shows at 11am, 1.30pm and 4pm).

Exploded Sophie Bee diagram - showing the bee detective constituent parts

Image by James Merry

When Bee Detective met The Gruffalo

I met two very lovely children’s authors at the Bee Detective premiere – Julia Donaldson and Joyce Dunbar. Both are strong supporters of accessible arts for deaf children.

I spoke to Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo) afterwards and she declared our show to be “great fun for deaf and for hearing children – and I learned a lot about bees!”

gruffalo kids book cover

Having broken my shoulder/wing in the last week of rehearsals (in a cycling accident) the first show was fraught as my director had to stand in for me as the detective. But the team pulled together and we battled on. Gemma valiantly gave a cracking performance every time. It was an amazing feat of old school show-must-go-on-ness.

And if you can’t wait to see us on tour, you can watch a sneak preview and meet the cast on BBC2 on See Hear at 1pm on 30 May. We’re the first item in the show. You can also see a clip of me and my broken wing. I’m trying to heal and regain flexibility in order to reclaim the detective role later in the tour.

And finally, you may have noticed all the union jacks about town lately and wondered what they’re in aid of. I’m beelighted to announce that they are celebrate our marvellous Queen Bee’s third birthday. I look forward to seeing you at her party in our hive this summer.

Queen Bee gets ready for her birthday party

Sneak preview pics!

I have just got back from tech in our beeeautiful tent. It’s looking pretty incredible. The whole tech and art team have worked with astonishing speed. Gemma is a miracle director turned understudy turned bee turned detective. Her and Dan are just great together as bickering bruv and sis. No pics of the Queen Bee yet – you will just have to trust me that she is truly wonderful and gorge, the best queen bee ever, and I can’t wait for you to meet and greet her. The animations are jaw dropping and the vibrating floor is supercool. I’m so pleased.

We open this weekend at Brighton Fest.

I will blog more soon. Must rest my broken wing. Thanks to my terp Mo Bergson for the snaps.

Sophie Bee (Gemma Fairlie) and Barnabee ( Daniel Alun)


One Wing Sophie

Yesterday I broke my shoulder in a cycling accident on the way to rehearsals. I’m OK and feel very glad to be alive. Seeing as our play opens at Brighton Festival next Saturday 5 May, we all agreed that the best plan is to go on with the show. But playing a scout bee is very physical work and I need time to heal properly. Director Gemma Fairlie has very generously stepped in to fill my waggle dress and beehive wig and will wear my wings of steel when we open.

After spending half the day in casualty I returned to Bee Detective HQ and saw our beeautiful tent for the first time. Gemma gently broke the news to me that we’d have to take me out of the role until Cardiff Unity Festival. I was disappointed of course, but I wrote the show, which means I’ll always be in it even if I’m not onstage. And I’ll be able to watch one of my own plays for the first time ever. I’m so proud of it, and of how my talented co-bees have taken to their roles, and Gemma will be a brill detective, so I’m confident the children will adore it with or without me.

In fact the day before my accident we did a run through in front of a class of discerning 6-7 year olds in South London. Even without the set or full costumes, they absolutely loved it and really wanted to get involved and help Sophie Bee solve the mystery. They picked up the waggle dance right away and at one point in a CSI scene a kid shouted, “Wow! Magic bees!”

As I type this blog with one wing in a sling, Gemma is speed learning my lines, and practising the signs. We’ve created such a dazzling, ambitious, funny and joyous show, there is no way we can give up now. Not after so much work by all the bees behind the scenes and onstage.

Help us spread the buzz – we are working so hard,and against the clock in order to bring you a ground breaking, creatively accessible play. Calling all children forager bees! We have a mystery to solve!

Exclusive sneak preview of Queen Bee’s eggs

Rehearsal report – week 2: I’m the writer AND I play the detective in the show itself, which means I’m a very busy bee right now. But I can’t claim to as busy as a queen bee, who spends almost her entire life laying eggs, day in day out.

Some of the Queen Bee’s eggs for the show arrived this week! Our hive Queen Bee (Chris Morgan) will reside in a ball pool for most of the play, laying these ‘eggs’: bag filled with transparent balls





There are two other fabulous actors in the show, Chris Morgan and Daniel Alun. Two weeks into rehearsals and I’m still fine tuning the script as the director, Gemma leads us all through each scene in depth.

Director Gemma pictures from the back in black top that says 'director' on it.

Guess who?

This afternoon I’m memorising all my lines in both English and sign language. In the show we speak and sign the lines – at the same time. This means deaf children can follow the show as well as hearing.  Daryl Jackson is working as our sign language monitor, to help us adapt the script into stage and child-friendly signs. The show is fully subtitled every date too! Our animator, James Merry is working round the clock to create beautiful animations to go with the subtitles.

Please help us spread the word about the show! We are at 4 festivals this summer. Share this trailer with all your friends! Zanx and zee you at the show. :Bz