Family Tree @ Charlton House and Gardens Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) Review

The HeLa cell line is one of the most important cell lines within our modern human history. The first to ever be immortalised, the cell line originates from the late Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancer cells have aided with medical research into illnesses such as cancer and various other ailments. An exploration of her contributions within the scientific field, Mojisola Adebayo presents Family Tree, an expansive look at Lacks’ integral legacy.

Forming part of this year’s Greenwich + Docklands’ International Festival, Family Tree taps into the magnitude of Lacks’ legacy, writer Mojisola Adebayo respectfully observing Lacks’ incredible story, and celebrating her unique tale, a story seldom heard of and discussed considering the medical advances that have been achieved because of her. Michelle Asante boldly emulates Hacks’ legend. The show’s anchor, she honours Adebayo’s epic script. Spanning generations, the show looks back at Lacks’ ancestry, back to the slave trade, and further back to West African – Nigerian, Yoruba history and folklore, making reference to the Orisha Osun, the deity of water before arriving back to the UK in the present day, observing the contributions of Black nurses within the NHS system.

Diana YekinniKeziah Joseph and Natasha Cottriall are a dynamic trio. Supportive in spirit, the trio work as one, a powerful ensemble guiding us on a vital history lesson of the West. Matthew Xia wonderfully captures the epic nature of Adebayo’s script, able to utilise the Charlon House grounds to good effect, the promenade format embodying the show’s grand, rich essence. Reference to nature and the patterns we humans share with it, a firm reminder of how we’re all linked, the architecture of old, floral formations, statues and spacious sections of the grounds marrying well with the show’s elemental feel.

Part biography, part history and scientific lesson, part communal experience, Family Tree serves as an important reminder of how Henrietta Lacks continues to shape our modern day, decades after her passing, a powerful piece of theatre.

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Family Tree was shown from Saturday 28th until Monday 30th August 2021 at Charlton House and Gardens as part of this year’s Greenwich + Docklands Festival. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop