Set in the near future, The Phlebotomist follows the love story of two people separated by genetic testing. I sat down with the directors and cast to learn more.

If a blood test could determine your future, would you take it?Bernie Carter

Bethan: What drew you to the play?

Lily (Co-director): Dystopia is quite a popular genre in film, TV, and books, but it’s rare to see it on stage, so I got quite excited when I found this play. I just fell in love with it. After living through Covid, I find the relationship between medicine and society fascinating: the way that medicine impacts our daily lives that maybe we took for granted before.

"I also think it's terrifying"Elena Pare

Elena (Co-director): I really love the romantic storyline between Bea and Aaron. It draws the audience in emotionally, but then every other scene is an interlude with footage from the real world. There’s even a real interview with the previous Chief Medical Officer. It’s amazing that there is both a realistic-feeling world and the emotional draw of the romance. I also think it’s terrifying: at the end of the play I had to take a moment and just gasp.

Bethan: You mention that the show revolves around the relationship between Bea and Aaron. How have you developed this relationship in rehearsals?

LJ (Bea): It’s about learning how you feel with the other actor and creating a level of comfort where you feel happy to push the boundaries and experiment with how you want to portray the characters. Who you want the audience to align themselves with, and is that chosen deliberately to subvert it in the end?

“Humans are always seeking perfection, but is it ethical to search for it in society?”

Thea (Aaron): Yes, developing your characters. Both of the characters have flaws. It’s about finding the balance between making them likeable and making the audience root for them as a couple, while also acknowledging their controversial actions.

Bethan: The show opens with “the real words of a Tory health minister”. What do you think the play says about the world today, especially in the context of the current global health emergency? Is there a moral?

Lily: I think it’s a warning about how society can become divided so easily, and to stay alert the moment you think divisions aren’t a problem anymore. In this play, the division is through blood, which is a fascinating idea. It’s very close to reality.


Mountain View

Politics as theatre

Elena: In the pandemic, there is a divide between people. There’s a majority that thinks, “we’ll protect vulnerable people”, but then there’s a significant minority that thinks, “who’s dying here? The weaker people, older people… Is that so bad?” That’s a very controversial thing to say, but it raises questions about who we protect. Humans are always seeking perfection, but is it ethical to search for it in society?

Bethan: How have you found dealing with sensitive topics like eugenics and racism? What has it brought up for you?

LJ: I’ve been thinking a lot about intention. For instance, my character would like a comfortable life with a family and a good job. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to want, but are the measures they are taking to achieve that morally justified?

Successful character intimacy comes from building relationshipsChannan Sangha

Lily: We’ve thought about how much everyone can empathise with their characters. They might disagree with what their characters do, but they can understand why they do it.

Kitty (David): I play an older character, so I’ve been thinking about the privilege of circumstance. My character is very moral and has a much more grounded perspective. I’ve thought about how older people are able to distance themselves from social media. They’re from a time where social media didn’t dictate their morals, so they can almost see social media for what it is.

Charlotte (Char): My character manages to change her position in society because of her blood test. It’s such an obvious instance of what they call “ratism”, and it exposes a lot of hypocrisy in the system.

“The show is less about having a moral and more about about raising questions”

Thea: My character is originally a white man, and I am neither, so I wasn’t sure how it would work at first. It’s quite ironic, my character’s partner has a lower blood rating than him, and he’s apprehensive about having a baby with her even though he claims he’s “not ratist”. It’s a very interesting dynamic.

Bethan: What would you like the audience to take away from your production?

Lily: I want them to be asking more questions, to think, “I had my mind made up about genetic testing, friendship, and love before I came in, but now I’m not so sure”. I want to sow a few seeds of doubt and let them grow.

Elena: Maybe the show is less about having a moral and more about about raising questions and getting people to discuss it afterwards. I want it to be talked about.

Lily: It’s definitely not a neat, easy experience. There’s some great laughs in it, there’s some great sadness. It won’t all be serious. I just want people to feel not so sure of anything at the end. I think that’s the most exciting kind of play, where nothing is certain.

The Phlebotomist runs from the 18th to the 22nd of January at the Corpus Playroom.