This is an innovative play that presents the true history of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose cancer cells were used to create the first immortalised human cell line. It opens with a rhythmic, spoken-word monologue delivered by Henrietta (Aminita Francis). We soon learn that her DNA, nicknamed by herself as “Did Not Ask”, was non-consensually taken from her body in 1951. It has since served as the key basis for medical research, including the development of HIV vaccines, investigation of cancer cells and more recently, the COVID vaccine.
Two mouldering animal carcasses dangle from butchers hooks at the back of the stage. Glistening fat and muscle clinging to white bone waits to be turned into an expensive meal, then served at the high-concept restaurant’s table for two in the foreground. But fuzzy, green patches around the edge of the larger, more exposed dead body exude an unsettling energy – this meat is old, with the mould indicating a deeper, more insidious rot that’s not so easy to cut out.
In the programme notes, director Graham Watts states, “there are hundreds of astonishing plays written by women that have never seen the light of day…Let me be clear. These are not ‘lost works’. They’ve never been considered and were simply ignored.” This world premiere by the writer of Machinal proves his point. Though several of Sophie Treadwell’s 39 plays were produced on Broadway, this one from 1954 – one of her last, and demonstrative of her skill and experience – has never before been produced.
As the audience enters the small studio space, we see a young man scribbling animatedly on a legal pad. Whether he’s mentally troubled or just in an intense creative state, we’re not sure. The mystery of this young man named Trevor (played by the play’s author Scott Howland) unravels over the course of the next hour in this new production directed by Harriet Taylor.
A red velvet chaise-lounge is a telling symbol. Positioned in the middle of the stage, the piece of furniture manages to evokes tacky luxury, softcore porn, and casting couch culture all at once. It is just one example of how smart Tom Ratcliffe’s one man show Velvet is.
Leah loves life. She works in a Saville Row shop and shares a flat with her best mate. It gets even better when she meets Ben Cavendish, a new customer at work, and things starts turning into a real-life fairytale. But real life isn’t a fairytale – awful things happen and endings aren’t always happily ever after.
What is ‘romantic’? A candlelit dinner and a bottle of good wine? Or being tied up, gagged and whipped?
To the young couple in dominion, the latter holds the most appeal. But S wants a bit more of the first, and D wants to keep pushing the limits of the second. The men’s love, though genuine, provides a nuanced look at S&M, consent and consequences in this new play by Greg Forrest.