The Hive

We all have dark thoughts, some are darker than others but some are deadly dark. The Hive fuses verbatim interviews with a scorching operatic score to explore our fascination with serial killers - from grim tales to the real thing; from the first act of murder to the protracted effect of psychopathic darkness. A story as beguiling as it is shocking

THE HIVE is an opera based in
the world of forensic psychiatry.

Hiveopera in collaboration with Tête à Tête has produced extracts from Act 1 and Act 2 which were very well received, and we are now looking for partners to develop the project into a full production. Please see below for videos of the performances, how the project developed, a synopsis and details of the creatives and producers. If you would like to contact us please email

The libretto was conceived and written by Carole Hayman, inspired by research she had done as a Fellow at Kings College London – a study of women who commit serial murder. This became a 4-screen video installation of verbatim interviews with those intimately connected to killings. Funded by The Wellcome Trust the work was shown at Fabrica Gallery during the 2008 Brighton Festival.

Carole returned to the project a few years later with a workshop at Out of Joint Theatre Company. From that came The Hive libretto – the title from a forensic psychiatrist who said in an interview, ‘Women kill close to the hive’.

Shortly afterwards, Carole enticed Harvey Brough, a musician and composer whose work she loved, to write the score. The Hive words and music aim to address some of human nature’s darkest depths, yet move rather than horrify, while keeping us emotionally charged. Quite the challenge!

A workshop showing of part one was seen last summer at Arcola Theatre’s Grimeborn Festival, funded by Tête à Tête and directed by Bill Bankes-Jones, where it was very well received. With financial assistance from ACE, a draft of the second act was completed and a half hour extract directed by Susannah Waters was mounted in August 2017 at the Tête à Tête festival at RADA.

The Hive would like to thank Bill Bankes-Jones, Anna Gregg and everyone at Tête à Tête for their encouragement and support, and for mounting Act 1 at the Arcola and giving us space to mount Act 2 at RADA.

Below you will find videos of both extracts, and at the bottom of the page a video of the post-show discussion at RADA with Rosemary West’s solicitor, his wife, and the production team.


Act 1

Act 1 takes place at a Forensic Psychiatry Conference
on ‘The Nature/Nurture of Evil’.

The timetable for the conference is:

20:00 The Period of Latency and Female Serial Killers
20:15 Case Study: The Grimms
20:30 Talking Circle
20:45 Interview: Bill B-J interviews Crystal Tipps
21:00 Close


Music: Harvey Brough
Words: Carole Hayman
Director: Bill Bankes-Jones
Design: Jamie Simmons
Technical Stage Manager: David Salter
Image & Video: Josh Pullman
Producer: Anna Gregg for Tete-a-Tete
Associate Producer: Chris Wallis
Bill Bankes-Jones (Voice of Judge)
Carole Hayman (Narration)
Christopher Diffey (Tenor)
Turiya Haudenhuyse (Soprano)
Clara Sanabras (Recorded Voices)
Jessica Walker (Mezzo)
Keel Watson (Baritone)


Act 2

Act 2 takes place in a forest – perhaps The Forest of Arden – where archetypal characters wander. Little Red Riding Hood, on her way to visit her Grannie, is abducted by Hansel, Gretel and the Big Bad Wolf, who are all partying in their Gingerbread House. The Huntsman cannot save her, though he does his best. Everyone touched pays a price – no one escapes.


Music: Harvey Brough

Words: Carole Hayman

Director: Susannah Waters

Producer: Chris Wallis

Associate Producer: Chris Taylor


Carole Hayman (CHRYSTAL)

Soprano: Elizabeth Cragg (LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD/DR A)

Mezzo: Marcia Bellamy (GRISELDA/GRETEL/DR C)

Tenor: Ted Schmitz (HUNTER)

Bass: Keel Watson (HANSEL/ DR J)


Soprano: Susannah Hardwick

Mezzo: Rebecca Leggett (MAID MARIAN)

Tenor: Alexander Jasper (LONG JOHN SILVER)

Bass: Robert Brooks (DR GEORGE)

Piano: Harvey Brough


Extract of post-show discussion at RADA



Lights up on a scene of domestic holocaust. The Grimm household. Breakfast time. The kids and dog are eating toast, while watching Spongebob Squarepants on TV. Hansel is leaving for work – he is late. He is in his outdoor clothes, steel-capped boots and underpants.

Gretel, where’s my bloody work jeans?


On the bloody bedroom floor, where you left them

Cinders go and get them for me, I’m late.

I’m watching Spongebob

(Threateningly) Do as you’re

Or you’ll end up under the patio.

Cinders sulkily gets up and goes.

Might as well have my breakfast
while I’m waiting..

There’s toast. I din’ make nothing
else. You says you was late.. 

Toast! Wha’ sort of a breakfast is
that to send a man out to labour on
all day?!

You says you was late, you was goin’..

I should have bloody gone. I should
have bloody gone bloody years ago!

Go then. I don’t bloody care

You will bloody care! Do as you’re
bloody told and get my bloody

Or what? End up under the patio?

She dishes up a couple of cold sausages and plonks them down under Hansel’s nose. The Dog comes up barking for some. Hansel kicks it away with his steel-capped boots..

Garn! Geddout of it!

Or you’ll end up under the patio.

Dog whines and slinks away.

Shuddup about the bloody patio!

Cinders enters with jeans.

Think we don’t know what’s under there?

Rapunzel. Rapunzel’s under the patio.

All turn to look at her. She holds out the jeans. Smiles.





Sexually, that man is insatiable.
My God, If I’d known when I met
him, what being with him was going
to be like..

(Pause, she gets her breath. )

I was thirteen when I first met
Hansel. He was that much older and
quite a glamour boy round our way.
He had a motorbike and wore
leathers and had his hair long in a
ponytail. He was very good-looking.
He worked in town, whereas I was
from the backwoods really. It was
all fen farmin’ round us. He called
me his little bumpkin. I met him at
a line dance in the village hall.
He wasn’t dancing, he just come in
with some other biker lads, for a
look. They had a bike garage nearby
like, it was a place they hung out
– with a greasy spoon type of caff
an’ everything. I saw Hansel as
soon as he come in – I thought, ooh
he’s a bit tasty. After the dance
he give me a ride on his bike. He
said he’d take me home, but we just
roared about the lanes for hours.
We didn’t have crash helmets or
anything. I was hanging on round
his waist and his hair was flying
in my face – it was dead exciting.
We stopped in the woods and he
fetched a bottle of cider out of
his pillion seat. We drank it all,
then we had sex. I’d never had it
with anyone I fancied before. He
was much better at it than my dad
and brothers. Really bothered that
I was liking it. We lay under the
trees for quite a while and he told
me all about himself. His dad was a
builder in Ipswich and Hansel was
apprenticed there, his mum worked
as a dinner lady. He had three
brothers still at school. I didn’t
say much about me – well, how could
I? He took me home and asked me if
I’d meet him again. I said I would.
That summer he took me all over.
Even to pubs – he said I looked old
enough. You’re probably wondrin’
was it a romance – and I say, it
was. I’d never known anyone like
Hansel – who really cared for me
and took care of me. He treated me
like a princess. One book I
remember having when I was little,
was Ancient Fairy Tales – and it
was like that. Like I was in a
fairy story.

Sounds from off of Hansel trampling through the forest, still raucously singing. He is fast approaching.

How was I to know it would turn
into a horror story!

Gretel runs towards the Gingerbread house. She opens the door – party noise, as before – and enters, slamming the door behind her. From off-stage the faint sound of the chorus singing


Drown the bitch! Dirty witch! Duck
her again – she’s still breathing!