Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Two figures take us through the dark recesses of appalling state inspired crime as we hear of the Scottish haemophiliacs who were given infected blood. From experimentation in Nazi camps to Soviet institutions to American prisons we are brought back to that 1980’s NHS Scotland experiment. No longer hidden by democracy this may be the biggest scandal of them all.
Actors Stewart Porter and Matthew Zajac recite the testimonies of Bruce Norval and Robert Mackie within the context of how the 20th Century attempted to harvest blood for the good of humanity. That humanity seems to have been forgotten as we witness their demise and the demise of their community through infected blood given out by the NHS in Scotland. We then hear of the admissions from Government and the apartheid payments for AIDS but not for Hep C infections. We end up with the anger of why me and the hope that no other me will suffer.
Stewart Porter and Matthew Zajac give powerful performances as Norval and Mackie. They also inhabit many other characters principally at the beginning but also throughout which allow this story to be told in its full horror. Make no mistake this is a horrific tale and the taut direction coupled with a sizzling script that is all about the testimonies there is hardly a foot put wrong. From the hiding of a Nazi medical practitioner in plain sight within the West to the appalling revelation that Scots were part of a study group without their consent there is hardly any let up in the narrative.
There is a fantastic set that is gory and medical at the same time. Projections and video are used in an exceptional way as backdrop to the stories that unfold.
The soundscape also works particularly well and as a package this is a compelling story well told. Theatre often finds stories that others refuse to recognise and ensures that they receive a platform. This is one example of a performance that needs to be heard and needs to be recognised. Within the context of theatre we can laugh at some of the young antics of the characters and be drawn into having sympathy for them before we are knocked side ways by the revelation that a grown faithful man has contracted AIDS.
As a performance piece it challenges and asks more questions about us as society not just by holding up a mirror to it but finding the shards of the broken mirror society has infected and forcing us to look. It’s uncomfortable to watch at times but that is precisely why we must be forced to take it all in.