Tag Archives: Tyrone Huggins

Bear-Polar Disorder


ShopFront Theatre, Theatre Absolute, Coventry, Thursday 10th June 2021

Mademoiselle F was the first person to be diagnosed with what is recognised today as OCD.  We join her in her room in a Parisian asylum in the 19th century, as she battles with and succumbs to her compulsions in a never-ending internal struggle.  In the title role, Miriam Edwards imbues the part with nervous energy and fragility.  She is accompanied by Tyrone Huggins in the role of Polar Bear, who acts as a visitor and a nurse, but mostly as a polar bear.  He regales F with stories of his life in a present-day zoo.  The stories fascinate F (and us) and his descriptions of the modern world have a strong ecological message.

Writer Vanessa Oakes draws parallels between F in her room and the bear in his enclosure, between the mental illnesses suffered by animals in captivity and the prevalence of smartphones in society and our compulsion to continually check them.  There is more to the play than a case study of an all-but forgotten Frenchwoman.

Miriam Edwards finds light and shade in the neuroses of F, and I could listen to Tyrone Huggins all day as he explains everything with warm authority.  Director Mark Evans keeps things tight in the empty but intimate setting, further limiting the space with a length of rope, symbolising the polar bears’ dwindling natural habitat.

It’s engaging, provocative stuff but it’s a case of the contemporary social commentary, with its direct relevance to the way we live, overshadowing the thin biography of the eponymous, practically anonymous, mademoiselle.


Bear with: Miriam Edwards and Tyrone Huggins

Oh, Bee-hive!


The Door, The REP, Birmingham, Saturday 21st February, 2015


Tyrone Huggins writes and stars as the eponymous beekeeper in his new play that covers a lot of old ground but also a lot of new.

The set-up is the unlikely friendship that develops between an old man and a teenage girl. They couldn’t be more opposite. He is elderly, wise and cut off from modern life, clinging to herbalism and attuned to nature. She is young, brash, plugged into the internet, and complaining about everything. It could be a sit-com scenario.

Honey Man is concerned; his bees are dying. The girl, Misty, is pissed off because her parents have split up and she might have to move out of the ancestral pile and go and live in a flat. Ah, diddums.

While we warm to Huggins immediately as he potters around, Beatrice Allen’s poor little rich girl is harder to swallow. Of course, as the character learns more about life and matures a bit, the hard edges are worn away, and we see how far she has come. She turns out to be not such of a bad egg after all. Who would have thought?

What the play does best is point up concerns that extend beyond the two characters. The mysterious death of the bees is a global problem, here standing as a reminder that we should heed the signs that are there in nature. We ignore these warnings at our peril.   Misty’s recruitment to the cause, after she has weathered personal problems and taken her GCSEs, natch, may be too late. She is able to revive Honey Man after a nasty attack of bee stings, learning a natural remedy as she does so, bringing him back from the brink – but is it too late for her generation to do the same for the planet after the current generation has done so much to ruin it?

The focus of the play shifts from the future to the past. It turns out the two have links in the past. Misty gives guided tours of her stately home for pocket money but she hasn’t noticed there’s a black boy in the painting she spouts about so much. It takes Honey Man to point him out on a visit to her house for her birthday (I told you it was unlikely). And so the closing message is that those who have been painted out of history deserve to be seen, or else we don’t get the full picture.

Huggins packs a lot into his amusing and interesting script but some of the scenes seem too contrived. His performance is endearing and Beatrice Allen too does a good job, despite being hampered by some of her dialogue. Her ‘teen speak’ sounds totes awks in her rich girl voice. Imagine the cast of Made In Chelsea quoting rap lyrics.

Timothy Bird’s set design charmingly combines Honey Man’s ramshackle cottage with Misty’s aristocrat splendour, making excellent use of projected animations and a multi-purpose piece of scenery that serves as doors, bed, wardrobe and screen. The oil painting backdrop and the broken pieces of gilded frame make sense by the end, when we are drawn into the family portrait from the past. Emma Bernard directs, keeping us focussed when the script is a little muddied – a flashback scene is stilted and formal, the language a little too mannered but on the whole works well to differentiate between the past and the present.

All in all, The Honey Man satisfies without overdoing the sweetness. Straightforward in both form and content, it is nevertheless an engaging piece with a lot of warmth and a few things to say.

honey man

Rat’s Tale


The Old Rep, Birmingham, Saturday 2nd March, 2013


Philip Pullman’s enchanting story is brought to life in this adaptation for the stage by Teresa Ludovico, who also directs.  The story has a fairytale feel and there are also elements of Oliver Twist and Pinocchio.  It begins when a peaceful evening of sharing stories from the newspaper (Bob and Joan reminded me of a West Indian Meg and Petey in Pinter’s The Birthday Party) is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a boy, dressed as a footman.  The boy has a peculiar type of amnesia.  He can only claim “I was a rat!” and knows nothing of table manners or the wide world in general.  The old couple consult a range of authorities: legal, medical, educational, before deciding they will adopt the strange boy for themselves.  Except it is too late.  Trouble at school means the boy, now named Roger, goes on the run.  The media – namely a newspaper called the Daily Scourge – stirs up public opinion against him, and before long people are in fear of the ‘monster’ among them.  Roger falls in with the wrong sorts (circus folk and criminals) and is captured and put on trial for his life.

It’s fast-moving, inventive fun with the emphasis on the agility and versatility of the performers, who dash around and move like a commedia dell’arte troupe, using grotesque masks and mime to enhance their physicalisation of a range of characters.   Tyrone Huggins and Lorna Gayle are endearing as the caring old married couple, not too old to have a snowball fight when the mood takes them.  Christopher Dingli amuses as the bureaucratic stickler in City Hall, Dodger Phillips is a grotesque dame as ringmaster’s wife Mrs Tapscrew, complete with a frock that resembles the big top; and Jack Jones is hilarious as Mrs Cribbins.  This is not a show about subtlety and is all the better for it.  TJ Holmes’s Philosopher Royal brings a touch of the Absurd, rather like Alice’s Caterpillar with his musings and pronouncements.  Menace comes from Joey Hickman’s burglar Billy.

There is no scenery: spaces are delineated by lighting.  High chairs are wheeled on and off for characters of high status.  The cast mime most of the props while helpful hands appear from the wings to provide sound effects.  It all seems simple but it’s inventive and above all, theatrical.  David Watson’s English version of the script has more than a hint of satire to it.  As well as the overtly topical lines about the horsemeat scandal, there is a timely nudge to the brouhaha about the media’s portrayal of a ‘plastic princess’ (to borrow Hilary Mantel’s words) – the Princess Aurelia is a puppet, a disembodied manikin’s head with gloves and shoes!   It’s a witty script; a scene in the sewers gives a cheeky nod to Les Mis – there is as much to entertain the adults in the audience as the kids.

Luigi Spezzacatene’s costumes add to the fairytale-cum-Dickensian feel.  The police are flamboyantly Ruritanian. Even the police dog gets an extravagant uniform.  The rats are simply portrayed through movement but their flashlight eyes lend them an air of otherness.

The undoubted star of the piece is Fox Jackson-Keen as ex-rat Roger.  A charming portrayal of an innocent abroad in a wicked world on one hand; on the other, a dazzling display of dance and gymnastic, acrobatic ability.  His ‘circus act’s tops the show.

The happy ending is satisfying but so understated it lacks emotional punch;  nevertheless you will be hard-pressed to find a more energetically entertaining family show currently on the circuit.

Roger (Fox Jackson-Keen) is put through his paces by nasty circus owner Tapscrew (Christopher Dingli)

Roger (Fox Jackson-Keen) is put through his paces by nasty circus owner Tapscrew (Christopher Dingli)