REFUGEES – the continuous debate surrounds them like flies in an internment camp. Governments look for ways to relocate them to Rwanda, house them in what are seen to be floating prison camps or less than appropriate hotels – and continually debate the cost of their very existence – if they make it to these shores.

But what of the real cost to the people who make the journeys? They most certainly are not all career criminals keen on setting up shop in the UK. Many, in making their exodus, put themselves through trauma that most of us find unimaginable.

The human story of one such attempt has been told in the best-selling book, The Beekeeper of Aleppo. Christy Lefteri’s 2019 novel is an account of a perilous journey from Syria to England by beekeeper Nuri and his wife Afra.

The story was inspired by Lefteri’s two summers spent working in a refugee camp in Athens and has now been adapted for the theatre stage.

But how to tell the vast story with all its adventures, which ranges from Nuri’s once blissful life in Syria to the crowded refugee camps of Greece, and the couple’s perilous sea crossing in lifeboats?

The novel featured a first-person narrative, but unless you offer a monologue, how does a dramatist capture that sense of loss – of homeland, memories and even hope for a future – when the process of being processed is so dehumanising thanks partly to less than sympathetic immigration officers on British shores?

Part of the technique of the play showing at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal later this month involves real footage from war-torn Syria. (An estimated six million people are Syrian refugees who have sought refuge and protection across Europe from 2011 to the present day.)

But the story, for the most part, is told in the often-rapid dialogue between Nuri and his wife, in which we come to understand the workings of a shattered and traumatised mind. We also hear voices from Nuri’s past bleeding into his present.

Nuri reminisces about his beautiful homeland: “A beehive is a paradise,” he recalls while the comforting hum and rhythm of the bees underlines all that has been lost from the world they have left behind and reminds us of the dangers they have had to face in the course of their journey.

He adds: “I was scared of the bees at first, but now, they make me feel alive. They are like a society in complete harmony with itself. Not like people at all, but maybe what people have the potential to be.”

But as tricky as the conversion from novel to theatre stage is – how can you really capture what it’s like to be detained, processed (eventually), your value to a new country determined by what is written on a sheet of forms?

What the play can contend with is the importance of connection between the couple.

The tragedy of displacement is all too obvious, but what can’t be ignored is the distance that can grow between two people when their lives have been cast into such horror and confusion.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo includes Alfred Clay as Nuri and Roxy Faridany as Afra. The Theatre Royal, Glasgow, April 25-29

HENRIETTA Lacks is one of the most remarkable people in medical history. Her cells form the basis of the most important medical research and breakthroughs happening today, from cancer to HIV to Covid. But Lacks, who died at age 31, never knew any of this. Her cells were taken without her or her family’s knowledge or permission.

Lacks, an African American woman, had her cells taken from her during a biopsy in Baltimore in the 1950s, and the cell line became known as HeLa. Neither she nor her family were compensated for the extraction or use of her cells. “I am a farm,” says Henrietta Lacks in Mojisola Adebayo’s play about one of medical history’s most inconvenient truths.

However, what we realise is that Henrietta Lacks, who was buried in an unmarked grave in the family cemetery in a place called Lackstown in Halifax County, Virginia (the Lacks name was that of slave plantation owners) was denied her place in history. She might have been a farm, but she was not the farmer. (And she is not the only black woman whose body has been exploited by the medical establishment.)

Now, Family Tree tells the story of Henrietta Lacks’s legacy. Described as a “beautifully poetic drama about race, health, the environment”, it is said to be “fearlessly honest, hilarious, and ultimately transformative”.

Adebayo’s Family Tree also makes connections to Black Lives Matter and the effect of the pandemic on black workers in the NHS. The writer also weaves in the 19th-century gynaecological experiments on enslaved women by Dr James Marion Sims. A grim pattern emerges, even as Henrietta Lacks’s cells bring new life.

Aminita Francis stars as Henrietta Lacks in Family Tree, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, April 27-29

Don’t Miss: Clatty Pats, Walk Like a Glaswegian, Websters Theatre Glasgow, April 20.

The legendary ‘Clatties’ is brought back to life as nurses Sandra, Dawn, Lynne and Sue revisit that sticky as flypaper dancefloor in the comedy play.