Catacomb (Stopgap Theatre) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Catacomb is a site-specific exploration into the life of the honeybee juxtaposed to that of an addict on her downward spiral. Presented as part of the 2017 SummerWorks Festival, Catacomb takes place in an active greenhouse and features a guest appearance by live bees (enclosed in their colony, so I assure you, you’re fine). This intimate performance combines non-linear storytelling, movement, fun bee factoids, and plenty a twist and unexpected turn.

Seating in the Trinity Bellwoods Greenhouse is very limited, it is a very small space after all, with barely enough room for an audience of about ten. This highly energized two-hander performance (featuring Laena Brown and Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin) occurs right within arms reach. Best to keep your legs and arms tucked inside the car at all times and enjoy the ride.

In Catacomb, Brown–who is a theatre artist and beekeeper in real life–takes the lead in playing the role of the addict. We follow her on her disjointed journey to the bottom of the barrel of a coke habit while Leblanc-Beaudoin is on hand to offer commentary, the necessary secondary voice, bee facts, and ultimately salvation.

The ever-present metaphor flying around this tale is what connects the honeybee with the addict — failure is like a sting and a honeybee can only sting once, when she does, she dies.

This is one of those performances where I find myself pondering extensively on whether or not I actually liked it. The elements are there — Brown and Leblanc-Beaudoin are very strong actors and they have delivered a very solid wide-arching performance that includes their impeccable timing, line delivery, dance and movement all within that small space is highly commendable. What they have put on is very good.

But maybe it was how cramped the space was or how progressively humid it got within the confines of the greenhouse but try as I did, I could not find myself connecting with the story. And with the unevenness of the story’s trajectory cut through with the bee facts, that I would at times lose the story’s progression and suddenly she’s the queen bee mating with, and thus killing, drone bees.

Catacomb is a show I feel I need to see a second time to get a better sense of it but looking at their ticketing page now, I see that their run is sold out, which is great! I’m hoping the audience will get more out of their experience than I did.


Catacomb is playing at the Trinity Bellwoods Greenhouse (790 Queen St W).

Remaining performances:

  • Saturday August 5th 8:15 pm – 9:05 pm
  • Saturday August 5th 9:45 pm – 10:35 pm
  • Sunday August 6th 8:15 pm – 9:05 pm
  • Sunday August 6th 9:45 pm – 10:35 pm

Tickets to this particular SummerWorks performance are by donation at the door. However, seating is limited so booking online is encouraged.

Audience Advisory: Depictions of sexuality and drug use. Please be warned, enclosed live bee farms will be present in the space.

Photo by Gavin Firsker