Review: The Phlebotomist, Hampstead Theatre

PUBLISHED: 11:48 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:48 27 March 2019

Rory Fleck Byrne as Aaron and Jade Anouka as Bea in The Phlebotomist at Hampstead Theatre

Rory Fleck Byrne as Aaron and Jade Anouka as Bea in The Phlebotomist at Hampstead Theatre

Archant

Jade Anouka gives a stand out performance in Ella Road’s chilling dystopian vision of a world where we are rated on the basis of a simple genetic blood test

Rory Fleck Byrne as Aaron and Jade Anouka as Bea in The Phlebotomist at Hampstead Theatre Rory Fleck Byrne as Aaron and Jade Anouka as Bea in The Phlebotomist at Hampstead Theatre

The test of a truly chilling dystopian world is often not how far it pushes an extreme, but how close it is to our everyday life.

All the science in Ella Road’s debut play is currently feasible, her cleverness lies in embedding it into a frighteningly real near future where a speedy blood test can determine our genetic profile - mental, physical, behavioural - expressed as a single rating.

It’s not long before ‘ratism’ is rife, with ‘subs’ being locked out of mortgages, jobs and dating sites – or even post-natally aborted.

Bea is the titular blood nurse with a troubled past but a decent 7.1 rating, who falls for posh but possibly slippery Aaron Tennyson when their paths cross over a crashed medical cart.

He’s an 8.9, but doesn’t believe in ratings to choose your partner. But as their relationship develops they are increasingly pulled into this sinister world where parents and lovers are disinclined to invest in those with short lifespans, and the rich can still pay to rig their tests – or buy the, by now, hugely expensive fresh fruit.

Apart from an overlong metaphor about celebrating nature’s diversity, Sam Yates’ pin sharp production is always anchored by intimate emootional heft, and raises myriad questions around how a thirst for knowledge and freely given data can be used against us. Not to mention the terrifying ways that society will stratify into haves and have nots.

Jade Anouka gives a stand out performance as ambitious Bea, whose hopes for the future are slowly shattered as she gets drawn this dark world, but who finally realises that love is a leap of faith.

Kiza Deen lends able support as friend Char, whose own faulty DNA leads her to campaign for a fairer world.

And Rosanna Vize’s clinically clean set is slowly dismantled to reveal the messy chaos that lurks behind Bea and Aaron’s nice life.

But it is the clips - in the foyer - and between scenes, that most chillingly show a population increasingly forced to comply with disclosing their rating, and how corporates might capitalise on their desperate attempts to massage it.

In a world where an alcoholic or mad parent would nix our chance of finding love or a good job, how many of us would be doomed?

4/5

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