Intense, challenging and morally questionable are not usually words used to describe an enjoyable night out at the theatre, but this is a story set around the hideously macabre African HIV/AIDS epidemic and drug trials.
Bad Blood Blues, a truly thought-provoking two hander penned by British playwright Paul Sirett, is back for a whistlestop encore season at Chapel on Chapel. The Loft Theatre is a great choice – the intimate space and deliberately stark set allow the audience to focus on the story yet still remain at enough of a distance to objectively observe and question the characters.
In an unidentified African country, foul-mouthed Aussie academic Clare (Glenda Linscott) is conducting a double-blind trial to test the effectiveness of a cheaper drug on HIV-infected pregnant women that could reduce the infection rates of their unborn children. Working in the same hospital is Patrice (Blessing Mokgohloa), a young administrative assistant who approaches Clare under the premise of improving his English in order to study in the United States. Under any other premise their friendship and subsequent relationship detours would have been quite unbelievable. Middle-aged Clare is well travelled and well educated, yet fails to see how her dedication to her work at the expense of all else in her life may have put her in an ethical double-blind situation of her own. Seemingly naïve and gentle, Patrice gradually, then fiercely, assumes the role of top dog.
Prior to taking our seats upon entry, African-born musician David Marama’s tenderly played guitar and the relatively placid introduction to the characters belies the challenging and confrontational storyline to come. The script cleverly links the personal and political motivations of the two characters though Patrice’s true impetus is left unresolved. Initial questions about the characters and their story are rapidly answered and then immediately replaced by moral questions that can’t be easily answered or dismissed.
Thankfully the musical interludes and lighting changes during each scene provides a break from the ethical morass of the script – though we do appreciate the cleverness as the play becomes progressively darker and more discordant at each step.
Carefully directed by Christopher Parker and skilfully acted by the two protagonists, the emotionally charged script rollicks by at a lighting-fast pace. Your mind will continue churning the ethical and moral dilemmas presented by the Bad Blood Blues long after you leave the theatre.