Tim Stitz – Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper

Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper
A deeply personal one-man show

Lloyd Beckmann’s penchant for bees started when he was a small boy and saw one for the first time in the lemon tree at the front of his house. He would take trips into the bush with his brother, where they would gather wild honey from eucalyptus trees. By the age of 16 he was beekeeping, and continued to do so right through to the end of his life. Lloyd Beckmann, Beekeeper tells his story through the eyes of his grandson, the Green Room Award-winning actor Tim Stitz.

“I’d been playing with an older character, like a caricature, and I thought Granddad’s story coupled with that would be a really good vehicle for a show,” Stitz explains. The resulting one-man show is a funny and intimate look at the unique relationship between a grandfather and his grandson, and the inter-generational issues surrounding it such as nostalgia, inheritance and grief. The Old Fitzroy will undertake a drastic transformation to recreate the beekeeper’s granny flat, and simulate a visit to an elderly relative. With the audience capacity limited to just forty people, Stitz and the production team (with an aroma designer to boot) have created a sort of interactive art installation; Lloyd even offers audiences snacks, a XXXX beer, a glass of riesling, and tea or coffee.

Stitz began interviewing Lloyd, who was from Queensland, five years ago; it was then he realised how his grandfather was ageing. He explains now that this forced him to confront his own mortality. “In my childhood and teenage years both my grandparents were these strong stalwarts in my life and now I see that incremental slippage and that they are downsizing,” he says. “My memory of Lloyd is as a beekeeper so I wanted to chart that throughout his life. He became a beekeeper at sixteen but he only did it commercially in his sixties after a few failed business ventures and investments.” Lloyd and his wife grew wealthy, Stitz says, and then “lost everything” and had to move from middle-class Ipswich to a caravan on a family member’s property.

“Lloyd was always very close to the land and this affinity with the land seems to make it an Aussie battler story,” Stitz explains. “You toil to get it working and running and sometimes it goes well and sometimes it goes belly-up. Granddad was like, ‘If it all goes shit then stiff upper lip, you carry on and don’t drop your bundle.’ The drama of the piece is about getting on and picking up your pieces and to make of life what you can. Or as Lloyd used to say, ‘such is life’.”

The show has been lauded by the press in both Melbourne and Canberra and was nominated for a Green Room Award. After Sydney it will go on to Brisbane, where some of Stitz’s family will see it for the first time. “It’s very autobiographical and raw and initially I had concerns about whether I should be exposing it all in the show,” he admits. “When it comes to my family, it would be hard to see your personal story being told in the general public but if I get too involved in the fact it is personal, it can stop the need to tell the story or play the piece of theatre as it is.

“In this play you learn about bees and beekeeping from a lovely old chap, but it’s also about ageing and what we inherit from generation to generation,” Stitz goes on. “What scars? What skeletons in the closet? Things we are scared of but actually end up moulding who we are.”

Published in The Brag online and in print on June 6, 2011

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