HeLa cells have a property never observed before – that of reproducing and multiplying at a high rate. They are the source of the polio vaccine, advances in the fight against cancer and AIDS, significant advances in in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene therapy. They are cells taken from Henrietta Lacks (and anonymized under the designation HeLa). Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, and farm worker on a tobacco plantation, died in 1951 of cancer. These cells were taken from her and used by science without herself or her descendants being informed.
With economy, but also with vitality, the stage morphs into multiple settings: a media stage, an operating theatre, the stage of a music hall. Through sober and lively play, bodily agility, and with an ability to paint a portrait in a few strokes sufficient for emotion to emerge, the actors introduce poetry and humour into the technical and the sordid. It’s a touching work, almost making us forget that the contempt displayed for Henrietta is a system, part of an institutionalized racism and that the citizen still often disappears behind the patient’s gown or the client’s wallet.