Robert Tanitch reviews The Phlebotomist at Hampstead Theatre, London NW3
Phlebotomy is the art of drawing blood. A phlebotomist tests blood.
Ella Road’s debut play premiered at Hampstead’s Downstairs Theatre last year. Sam Yates’ production did so well that it has now transferred to the main house with the same two leading actors, Jade Anouka and Rory Fleck Byrne.
How comfortable are you about genetic testing? Road’s play is about genetic research and discrimination. Fear of discrimination is a common concern among people considering genetic testing.
Genetic information could be used against their interests.
Do you want to know in advance when you are going to die and do you want to know now if you are going to have Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease at the end of yout life?
Nobel Prize winner Elias Canetti wrote a play called The Numbered in which everybody from the day they were born knew when they were going to die. Their names were numbers. Think what it would be like to be called 27.
The characters in Ella Road’s play are living in an Orwellian age, in the not too distant future, when health, career, wealth, marriage, happiness depend on a single blood test.
Everybody is rated on a 1 to 10 basis. Post-natal abortion is the norm. People in search of better jobs cheat the system to get better grades.
A phlebotomist (Jade Anouka) falls in love with a young man (Rory Fleck Byrne). She is rated 7.1. He is rated 8.9. She would be delighted to have a child fathered by him. The baby would be perfect.
But would she still want to have the baby if, for instance, he was not 8.9 and rated 2.3?
How would I rate Ella Road’s play? Let me say that I found the video excerpts – news items, interviews, adverts – which came between the scenes so much more interesting than the play and the characters.
Incidentally, in China they are already rating their citizens…