An emotionally heart wrenching story about Canada’s tainted blood scandal, Tainted is playing at Toronto’s Aki Studio Theatre
It puts a human face on an inhuman chapter in recent Canadian history. The tainted blood crisis was the worst public health crisis that Canada has experienced. Almost 30,000 people contracted HIV and/or Hepatitis C as a result of receiving transfusions of tainted blood. Hemophiliacs were especially hard hit.
This is a play that everyone should see, not just for the story but for the writing, the direction and the acting. It’s a beautiful production.
It can be difficult to remember – or even to realize – that real people are affected by tragic events. Their lives are turned upside down but they find a way to keep on living. It can be easier to think about the big picture. We need to think about the people, not just the situation.
Kat Lanteigne reminds us to do that. She has written a gem. The dialogue is perfect; the Steeles sound like any family, like real people. She has a strong message and wants us to learn and understand what happened but I never felt as if I was being beaten over the head with the message.
The Steeles have three sons, all hemophiliacs, who have received tainted blood in the factor that they use to control the disease. We know that at least one will develop HIV or Hepatitis C and that at least one will die. It is an emotionally wrenching play but there are death scenes, no one announces to the audience that they are HIV positive.
We find out through conversations between the characters. It has a very natural feel.
Vikki Anderson has a very talented cast to work with – Alex Furber (Scotty Steele), Claire Calnan (Jacklyn Steele), Gord Rand (Jeff Steele), Maria Vacratsis (Molly Steele), Owen Mason (Leo Steele), P.J Prudat (Christine Steele), and Richard Greenblatt (Greg Steele). Her pacing of the play is excellent. She gives the audience time to catch their breath between highly charged emotional scenes.
The timing of Tainted is important for a number of reasons. A lot of people under 40 probably aren’t aware of the extent of the crisis and they should be so that it can’t happen again.
This is the 20th anniversary of the start of the Krever Inquiry. He issued his report in 1997. It contained 50 recommendations. The 2nd recommendation laid down the principles that should govern the Canadian blood system. The five principles are these:
- Blood is a public resource.
- Donors should not be paid.
- Sufficient blood should be collected so that importation from other countries is unnecessary.
- Access to blood and blood products should be free and universal.
- Safety of the blood supply system is paramount.
Canadian Blood Services indicates that it has embraced all of these principles.
Early this year we learned that the Federal Government and the Province of Ontario are planning to license a private company who will pay people for their plasma. They are planning to open three clinics – two in Toronto next door to homeless shelters and one in Hamilton near a drug-rehab clinic for former federal prisoners.
It sounds to me as if they aren’t paying attention to Justice Krever’s recommendations.
Go see Tainted. Yes, it is emotionally difficult but it’s a wonderful play. Take kleenex.
- Tainted is playing at the Aki Studio Theatre – Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas St E) until October 12
- Performance times: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm, Thursday matinee at 12.30 pm, Sunday matinee at 2 pm
- Ticket prices range from $27.00 to $42.00
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 1-800-204-0855 or in person at the box office
Photo of Gord Rand, Maria Vacratsis, Richard Greenblatt, Claire Calnan, Alex Furber, and Owen Mason in Tainted