Family Tree is a captivating and poetic drama that explores the untold story of Henrietta Lacks, one of the most remarkable people in medical history. Her cells have formed the basis of groundbreaking medical research, from cancer to HIV to COVID, but her contribution was never acknowledged during her lifetime. In fact, those cells that have made so much difference to the world were taken without her permission.
The play is a beautifully crafted narrative that delves into issues of race, health, and the environment. It is a soulful telling of a forgotten history that has shaped all of our lives; we just didn’t know it until now. Rhythmic and stylish and with a story to tell, Family Tree is about roots and about life and how they intertwine to tell stories and make change. What sets Family Tree apart from other plays is its seamless integration of poetry and movement. Each word and movement is designed to enhance the experience and ensure that Henrietta’s story – and the hidden stories of countless black women – is finally understood.
The characters in the play are well developed, and the dialogue is rich and poetic, leaving the audience feeling captivated throughout the entire 90-minute performance. The play's constant movement is like those ever-multiplying cells themselves, with beautifully choreographed movements that enhance the experience. The movement is not just there for aesthetics, but it is used as a tool to convey complex emotions and themes.
The performances in Family Tree are nothing short of exceptional. Aminita Francis delivers a captivating and nuanced portrayal of Henrietta Lacks, bringing to life a complex and overlooked historical figure. Her performance is both powerful and poignant, capturing the struggles and triumphs of Henrietta's life in a way that is both authentic and deeply moving.
Alongside Francis, the rest of the cast also shines. Mofetoluwa Akande, Keziah Joseph, and Aimée Powell all give impressive performances, bringing to life a range of characters that are both diverse and deeply compelling. Each actor brings a unique energy and presence to their roles, creating a rich and dynamic ensemble that is a joy to watch.
Playwright Mojisola Adebayo, who won the Alfred Fagon Award for Family Tree, has brought Henrietta's story to life with remarkable skill, using a combination of smooth and poetic words that captures the audience's attention from the beginning to the end. The language is powerful, emotional, and thought-provoking, creating a sense of urgency that makes it impossible to look away.
Director Matthew Xia's masterful direction is a standout element of Family Tree, bringing the play to the stage with a powerful and thought-provoking energy. The way in which he has crafted the production allows the audience to be fully immersed in the world of Henrietta Lacks and the important history that surrounds her. Through his guidance, the talented cast brings the complex characters to life with subtlety and depth, making their struggles and triumphs all the more poignant. The staging of the play is equally impressive, with Xia's use of space and lighting adding an extra layer of emotional depth to the performance.
Family Tree is an intriguing and thought-provoking play that explores the hidden history of Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose contribution to medical research was never acknowledged during her lifetime. It is a masterfully woven story that explores challenging issues and themes, leaving a lasting impact behind it – much like Henrietta Lacks herself.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | written by Lisamarie (@thesetheatrethoughts)