The Secret Life of Bees at Almeida Theatre review: this musical adaptation is very odd, but you won’t be bored


remendous blues and gospel voices buoy up this oddball musical, which maps a fairytale of sisterhood onto the brutal realities of the racist American south in 1964. Adapted from the 2001 bestseller by Sue Monk Kidd, and first staged in New York in 2019, the show doesn’t seem to obey any rules, with songs blooming randomly as the story shape-shifts between genres and moods.

A collaboration between award-winning author Lynn Nottage (Sweat, Ruined), left-field composer Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening, American Psycho) and veteran lyricist Susan Birkenhead was always going to be strange. The resulting work, given a stylised production by cutting-edge US director Whitney White that heightens both the violence and the sentiment, is simultaneously riveting and sporadically baffling.