Yesterday afternoon saw a pilot read-through of two plays: 'The Body Snatcher' adapted from a story by Robert Louis Stevenson, and 'The Gift', a brand new offering from writers Hughes & Toosey who form part of the Metal & Bone theatre company. The venue was highly suitable: the quaint and intimate old operating theatre near Guy's Hospital. The cast is made up of professional actors who gave very strong readings. The plays were followed by a short discussion in which the company rather bravely encouraged suggestions for how to develop the script before the plays are performed in April.
The two pieces worked well as a double-bill. In Stevenson's eerie story, Fettes, a medical student, becomes embroiled in body-snatching for medical research. Things go wrong when his superior involves him to cover up a crime. 'The Gift' highlights the benefits of medical research by focusing on organ donation. A dysfunctional family is reunited under tragic circumstances. Communication is a major theme here, not just between a mother and her son, but also between a medical student and a consultant haunted by a medical accident. The uses of dead bodies and ghosts feature in both plays.
The problem with inviting audience suggestions is that consensus is impossible and predictably the audience disagreed about the merits of the plays. There was a lot of discussion about how male-dominated they were in spite of two very strong female actors in the company. Personally I felt that if the consultant in The Gift was a woman, it would be all too easy to stereotype her as 'flakey' because of upset over an accidental death on the operating table. There was also discussion of whether 'The Gift' was an appropriate title: did it overdo the 'message' aspect of the play? Does it give too much away? However, the quibbles were rather minor and I reckon the plays are headed for success. The whole project looks very promising and I look forward to seeing the finished product. Good luck and well done to Soma and her team at Metal & Bone!