Monday, 28 April 2014

Factor 9

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars
At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking Ben Harrison's
production of Hamish MacDonald's new play to be  some dark piece of
science-fiction future-shock. The fact that this tale of how
haemophiliacs in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s were treated with
contaminated and often fatal blood products is culled from the real
life testimonies of two of its victims on our own doorstep makes it all
the more shocking.

It is Bruce Norval and Robert Mackie's stories of being used as what
one of them angrily describes at one point as 'human lab rats' that
forms the human heart of MacDonald's tale of institutional abuse,or
Dogstar Theatre Company in association with Profilteatern, Sweden and
UMEA 2014 European Capital of Culture. It is the play's barrage of
statistics that dominate, however, whether flashed up on the LED
counter at the top of Emily Reid's set, on which assorted images are
projected, or through speeches delivered by actors Stewart Porter and
Matthew Zajac.

Out of this comes a justifiably angry expose of institutional social
engineering that needs to be heard. As a play, however, that anger all
too often over-rides its aesthetic to its detriment in a collage of
scenes that would benefit from more dramaturgical thrust. There are
nevertheless some chilling moments despite this, as the death toll is
counted out on the screen or a doctor's skeleton is deployed. With more
of these sorts of dramatic devices, this vital piece of suppressed and
frighteningly recent history might yet make a real difference in giving
voice to those who fell victim to a state-led obscenity which has yet
to have any kind of meaningful closure.

The Herald, April 28th 2014
ends

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