Award Winning Play 'Family Tree' Comes to TBTL

Theatre by the Lake 11 May, 7.30pm

Award winning play by Mojisola Adebayo, Directed by Matthew Xia

Presented by Actors Touring Company and Belgrade Theatre in association with Brixton House

Family Tree is a powerful and poetic drama exploring race, inequality, health, the environment and the incredible legacy of one of the most influential Black women of modern times, Henrietta Lacks, whose influence on modern-day medicine still reverberates today.

Henrietta Lacks is one of most remarkable people in medical history. Her cells form the basis of the most important medical research happening today, from cancer to covid. But Henrietta never knew any of this, because her cells were taken without her permission. Henrietta was a Black woman: she is not the only one whose body has been exploited by the medical establishment. Denied her place in history, now is the time for Henrietta’s incredible legacy to undergo a transformation.

Originally commissioned by ATC, the UK’s leading theatre producer of international plays, and the Young Vic Theatre in 2020, as an outdoor work-in-progress piece which was showcased at the 2021 Greenwich + Docklands International Festival.

Family Tree won the 2021 Alfred Fagon Award, the leading Black British Playwrighting prize, for best new play. Director Matthew Xia, says: “Mojisola Adebayo is an exceptional writer and I’m excited that her award-winning play will be seen by audiences far and wide. There’s a beauty in her work that responds so well to the present moment whilst also holding historical malpractice to account. It’s fearless, brutally honest, at turns hilarious, and ultimately transformative.

“Henrietta’s HeLa cell line forms the basis of the most important medical research and breakthroughs across the last 70 years, from Cancer and HIV to COVID, we owe our lives to her. Denied her place in history, now is the time to bring Henrietta’s epic legacy to life on stage.”

Mojisola Adebayo adds: “‘When I met Matthew Xia, Henrietta Lacks came into our minds at exactly the same time. Xia is magic but Lacks is more, she’s immortal and her body has touched every life on the planet – yours, mine… So why have so few people heard of her? Let alone Lucy, Betsey, Anarcha and more... The play paints a family tree of Black women whose cells, blood and waters have birthed, raised and changed the world. Matthew said to me: “I want the audience to leave the theatre looking up”. I went away and wrote a play on a promise. Come see it.”

family tree - l-r aminita francis, keziah joseph, mofetoluwa akande, aimee powell - set and costume design by simon kenny - lighting design by simisola majekodunmi, photos by helen murray.jpg
(c) Helen Murray