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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Blood Pressure – Bodysnatchers

A young theatre company raises bioethical questions entering the kingdom of the sick and kingdom of the well.
By Jessica Keath
August 20, 2012
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Blood Pressure – Bodysnatchers

A young theatre company raises bioethical questions entering the kingdom of the sick and kingdom of the well.
By Jessica Keath
August 20, 2012
  shares
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Bodysnatchers is a young theatre company formed by playwright Mark Rogers and director Sanja Simic. Their latest show, Blood Pressure at the Old Fitz is an excellent domestic drama that incorporates some fascinating bioethical questions, from euthanasia to the legal status of dismembered body parts (it's finders keepers, in case you were wondering).

Two adult brothers, Michael (Alexander Millwood) and Adam (Wade Briggs) meet up after a time apart on the evening of Michael's piano recital. Preparing to leave for the big night, younger brother Adam holds things up with his chronic illness. Susan Sontag's famous quote from Illness as Metaphor about our dual citizenship to the kingdom of the sick and the kingdom of the well is included in the program notes, and under Simic's detailed direction, this production articulates beautifully what those two kingdoms look like.

Rogers has created a believable relationship between the brothers, who have the ability unique to siblings to adore and despise each other simultaneously. Millwood and Briggs bounce off each other well, particularly in the comic scenes, although Millwood seems to have some trouble executing the choppier parts of the text.

The wider arguments that arise about organ donation and whether foreign tissue in a body can really influence personal tastes are interesting. But the debate about the nature of consciousness in which Adam reveals himself to be a materialist and Michael a more metaphysical type is unnecessary and thankfully brief. Their return to the business of being brothers is welcome.

Theoretical arguments on stage are always inadequate because an essay could do it better. But where theatre triumphs is its capacity to move us. The emotional insight imparted by this play is that pathos is not a weak thing. Rogers has written a sick man who is good-humoured and practical, and Briggs embodies him with humility and grace.

The only drawback of the piece is the ending. Because it is not well rooted in the preceding play, it doesn't resonate with the story thus far and impact as it should. Nevertheless, the spirit of this production is courageous and tender. Go and see this and then go home and write your living will, dictating the treatment you want when you enter the kingdom of the sick.

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