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Eucharist at Etcetera Theatre | Review

From what Clara (Saskia Mollard) says, it appears she exchanged a major body organ for someone else’s for financial gain. The Eucharist programme of the show’s title isn’t fully explained in the dialogue – Ben (Tobias Abbott) keeps trying to provide her (and thus the audience) with some details, but he is repeatedly shut down. She’s done her own research, thank you, and she knows what she’s doing. To be a ‘donor’, which is what Clara is, means receiving money, but to be a ‘recipient’ means one must pay a substantial sum. When Clara, young and healthy, gets a new organ, from someone less young and less healthy, it almost inevitably comes with lifestyle changes.

Clara (Saskia Mollard) and Ben (Tobias Abbott) in Eucharist at the Etcetera Theatre.
Clara (Saskia Mollard) and Ben (Tobias Abbott) in Eucharist at the Etcetera Theatre.

It begs the question as to whether the long-term risks were considered. Clara is very defensive about her participation in this (rather bizarre) scheme in which people could, for instance, swap their not-so-perfect liver for a ‘new’ one, without waiting for a donor to die. The production also kindly spares the audience a re-enactment of the procedure, which would probably not be allowed to happen in the real world, such are the moral and ethical implications – it was not possible, for instance, if I’ve understood the parameters correctly, for Clara to know anything about whose heart she swapped hers with until after the procedure. In the light of the recent Infected Blood Inquiry Report, it seems, at least to me, dubious if not incredible that possible contamination by way of a diseased organ would actually be allowed.

But somebody somewhere in the world of this play has determined that the benefits apparently outweigh the risks. Clara has also determined, post-op, she won’t be able to hold down a full-time job. Befriended by Ben, for reasons that gradually become clear as the play progresses, Clara has a number of follow-up appointments with the Eucharist team, none of which are seen by the audience, who are therefore left to determine for themselves how reliable a narrator Clara is. The narrative meanders somewhat, even if it provides some backstory to the characters. A karaoke session begins to take on some meaning after a while, beyond demonstrating that Clara is a fine singer and wouldn’t be out of place in a West End musical: it’s still a tad too long.

As the storyline takes a dark turn, the play considers, subtly, whether personality traits of donor and recipient are also swapped along with their body parts. In other words, would the ‘old’ Clara have behaved similarly? Or was she simply pushing back against what was, in essence, coercive control? Both actors are highly convincing in their roles, with Mollard’s Clara displaying an intelligence that Abbott’s Ben evidently underestimates, possessing as he does some delusional and misogynistic views. His devious strategies are exposed by Clara in this thought-provoking single-act play, which brought to mind an old American saying once often found in retail stores and bars: “In God we trust, all others pay cash”. Neither character is particularly likeable, however, and as the mind games roll on, it’s clear that it takes two to tango.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

CAST
Ben – Tobias Abbott
Clara – Saskia Mollard

CREATIVES
Writers – Tobias Abbott and Saskia Mollard
Director and Production Designer – Josh Maughan
Technical Manager – Ella Kennedy

After Clara, a broke, solitary, young woman, joins ‘Eucharist’, a new medical programme where participants can trade their organs for a large sum of money, she meets Ben who goes above and beyond to keep her safe. But are his motives are pure as they seem?

Springbok Presents
EUCHARIST
Etcetera Theatre
15 to 19 June 2024

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