Art & Design

   

The Smell Of Beekeeping

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Paul Andrew talks to Tim Stitz about his autobiographical play, being part of the VCE Drama syllabus and the mellifluous smell of beekeeping.

There are two very distinctive voices in your play ‘Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper’. Tell me a little about them.
The first is that of Lloyd, the grandfather who interacts with the audience and recollects his lifetime of beekeeping. The other is the grandson, who is grappling with the family’s past, his grief and the experience of watching his grandparents ageing.

Tell me a little about your research for the play – and what is an apiarist exactly?
An apiarist is a person who works in an apiary, essentially a collection of beehives. I did a lot of research on the wonderful and mysterious world of bees and apiarists, and got a lot of information from Lloyd himself.

There are seminal works such as the Hive and the Honey Bee, as well as various beekeeping journals and online content. Like so many things, when you scratch the surface of an art or craft or science such as beekeeping you could spend the rest of your life exploring.

Tell me something that continues to fascinate you about apiaries and apiarists.
That bees pollinate approximately a third of all the food that humans eat, so if we don’t look after our bee populations we’re pretty much screwed.

I also love the ye olde image of beekeepers being the early conservationists. They would take their hives into people’s farms, orchids and state forests and have their bees pollinate the blossom flows. This still happens, and now we even have beekeepers in the CBD and suburbs. I love that so many different cultures and peoples have found ways to collect (or rob) honey from bees – from Egypt, to Greece, China to Australia.

Smoke and bees, tell me about this strange relationship – and did you learn about this from your grandfather?
Yeah, Lloyd instructed me about how smoke pacifies the bees. I’ve learnt recently that the bees smell the smoke and believe that a bushfire’s on its way, so they hunker down and try and ride it out. It does seem to slow them down, pacify them.

At the heart of the play is a story about cross-generational relationships.
I’m fascinated the ways in which we inherit things across generations, directly and indirectly. And this is not just genetic, familial traits but the way our behaviour is shaped by our family and kinship networks.

I suppose that was an initial reason to explore the territory of the play. Who is Tim Stitz? Where did he come from? How have I become the man I am today? And in that period of adolescence and ‘becoming a man’ what happens when the natural role model for this, my dad, is no longer there?

Your play is now included on the VCE Drama syllabus. What plays does it sit alongside, and how does this feel?
It’s sitting alongside other solo-shows and productions at Red Stitch, MTC and Malthouse, which is exciting. I do like the fact that VCE students can have such a great variety in the work they or their teachers choose to attend.

You can go and check out a Bell Shakespeare show as part of the syllabus but also go to little La Mama and see an intimate show where the performers as so close you can smell them and even be spittled on by them. I love the fact that the playlist encompasses work from the larger companies and also the rich independent sector we have in Melbourne.

When you smell honey now – what do you remember?
Buttery white toast with honey strewn on top, and the extracting shed which was full of old, strange equipment and was certainly grandad’s sanctuary.

Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper is playing until May 15
La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton
Thurs – Sat 8pm, Wed and Sun 6.30pm
Tickets $25 full, $12 concession
9347 6142
www.lamama.com.au

Read more of Paul Andrew’s interviews at http://paulandrew-interviews.blogspot.com/


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