THEATRE REVIEW: The Phlebotomist starring Jade Anouka & Rory Fleck Byrne at Hampstead Theatre

WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2

WHERE? Hampstead Theatre RUNTIME: 2 hours and 15 minutes (with 20-minute interval)

WHEN? 22/3, opens 25/3, runs to 20/4/19

Theatre’s 34th Olivier Awards will be presented at the Royal Albert Hall on 7 April and this new play is shortlisted for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.

  • Read on for reasons including what beat The Phlebotomist to our Best New Play monsta

monstagigz will be at the ceremony and we feel especially pleased about this recognition because The Phlebotomist was shortlisted for our Best New Play monsta in 2018 losing out to The Inheritance.

We didn’t write about it because we didn’t catch it until its penultimate performance at Hampstead Theatre’s Downstairs venue on the 19/5/18 matinee as Prince Harry was marrying Meghan Markle.

We mention this because The Phlebotomist is author Ella Road’s imagining of a dystopian future in which genetic profile ratings determine our job and dating prospects. It’s a future which, with recent advances in genomics, perhaps doesn’t feel that far away.

Anouka won our 2016 Best Theatre Actress monsta for her work in the all-female Shakespeare Trilogy at the Donmar and here she plays Bea who is a phlebotomist and takes other people’s blood for analysis including whether they will be pre-disposed to problems later in life. She’s a 7.1, the UK’s highest rating is over 9 and life’s not worth living if your score is too low.

Bea meets Aaron whose rating of 8.9 means he can pursue a prestigious law career while Bea’s best friend Char receives the devastating news that she is predisposed to Huntington’s disease and may not have long to live.

Char persuades Bea to fake her test results and the money-making potential of offering people with low ratings the chance to increase them proves too tempting for our hard-up phlebotomist heroine.

The London future we are seeing is 1 where fruits and vegetables we might regard as every day are expensive and prized. Recorded videos which punctuate the action portray a world in which ratism is running rampant and decisions about whether children live or die are based on these scores.

The Phlebotomist is a success because it pulls off the neat trick of examining the possession of such knowledge from all angles without ever preaching about the rights and wrongs of such an imagined predicament. Is it sometimes better not to know what you might have inherited?

Anouka is always engaging but makes the most of the natural dialogue and her chemistry with the charismatic Fleck Byrne is unquestionable. Special mention to Kiza Deen as Char whose decline is well drawn and unsentimental.

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 07.05.13

The action is more opened up in this transfer, the writing is tighter and it feels as though the ending, which we will not spoil, has been given greater thought. Writer Ella Road and director Sam Yates have combined brilliantly to produce something truly memorable.

It’s a tremendous subject for a play, the ideas it deliberates are well explored and this remains 1 of the most satisfying plays of both this and last year.

  • Picture by Marc Brenner via Facebook courtesy Hampstead Theatre. Tickets
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