If the story of Henrietta Lacks was not true, HeLa could well have been a fantastic, gripping piece of work on the ethics of medical science. However, the story of this coloured woman is now a tribute to her who never knew the legacy she left behind for human kind.
Colour of legacy
“HeLa has been inspired by the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It is the true story of Henrietta Lacks, who in 1951 walked into the coloured section of the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore with a pain in her abdomen. A cell sample taken without her permission was used as the raw material for some of the most important scientific discoveries of the past 100 years,” explains Adura Onashile, lead artist and writer.
But don’t medical stories become boring on stage? “It was really important for us to strike a balance between the human story and the story of scientific progress made possible by the HeLa cell line. Doing justice to both was most challenging job,” says Onashile adding that, “A good story and direction can always hold the audience’s attention. These nature versus nurture discussions are still raging within the scientific and public spheres and the Henrietta Lacks story presents an incredible opportunity to explore the nature of genes, cells, environment and legacy.”
HeLa was showcased at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013 and ran to packed houses during its 24-day run. It was here that QTP decided to bring it to India on its 15th anniversary. “We have always believed in telling stories that need to be told, through productions that are designed immaculately and leave an impact on the audience. HeLa talks incisively about individual rights, discrimination and ethics; all pertinent issues that have dominated recent Indian headlines. The play introduces us to all these themes in a powerful and moving way,” says the theatre company’s artistic director Quasar Thakore Padamsee.
When and where: February 15, at Sitara Studio, Dadar from 8 pm onwards