Medical disaster brought centre stage by Dogstar

Rab (Stewart Porter) and Bruce (Matthew Zajac) explain their life-changing story in 'Factor 9'.
Rab (Stewart Porter) and Bruce (Matthew Zajac) explain their life-changing story in 'Factor 9'.

A powerful production is travelling to Lewis as Dogstar Theatre tackle the true story of possibly the biggest disaster in medical history.

Dogstar, and the team who created ‘The Tailor of Inverness’, have united and worked with Swedish partners Profilteatern, to present ‘Factor 9’ – the story of the greatest healthcare disaster in the history of the NHS, based on the lives, deaths and testimonies of some of those affected by treatment with contaminated blood.

Written by Dogstar Artistic Director Hamish MacDonald from the testimonies of haemophiliacs Bruce Norval and Robert Mackie, the multimedia play tells a horrific story of blighted lives, exploring the causes that allowed HIV, Hepatitis C and CJD infection to spread among the community of blood product users.

“It’s not the sort of show you’re going to be indifferent to – it’s a bit like being hit over the head,” said fellow Dogstar Director and ‘Factor 9’ actor Matthew Zajac.

“The production is very much to do with trying to give a voice those people have not had – they’ve lost friends, family, their own lives, all of which have been blighted by the mistakes and possible greed of politicians and pharmaceutical companies.

“There’s not one thing in the play that is untrue. It’s an extremely serious subject. We’re talking about thousands of lives lost to this tragedy.”

The play centres on two ordinary men’s extraordinary true stories. Rab (Stewart Porter) and Bruce (Matthew Zajac) are survivors of the disaster, both haemophiliacs and both infected with life-threatening illnesses through the prescribed use of contaminated products.

Rab is from the Scottish Borders and Bruce from the Highlands. Both men, lovers of the great outdoors, have, with the support of their families and fellow haemophiliacs, battled with disease and with medical and political establishments to be recognised as more than just product users or even subjects of scientific study; to be recognised as unfortunate individuals.

And being toured thirty years on from the first haemophiliac in the UK to die from AIDS due to contaminated blood products, ‘Factor 9’ coincides with the publication in May of the Penrose Inquiry findings – the first public inquiry in Britain to investigate the causes and extent of contaminated blood products.

“We can’t deny that Hamish and I are driven by a desire to give people a very stimulating time at the theatre,” Matthew said of the horrific story.

“We also explore history, culture, philosophy; every single one of our productions has these elements. We make demands on an audience, discuss the dilemmas and debates and that’s an important fact of theatre.”

Now touring the Highlands and Islands, and performing at An Lanntair on Friday, April 11th, ‘Factor 9’ had its world première in Sweden’s Festival of Horror & Art (Skrackfestival) in Umea – the European Capital of Culture 2014 – before shows in Denmark and Wales at the Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s Celtic Festival of New Writing receiving rave reviews internationally.

Working with Dogstar again is Director Ben Harrison, as well as Video Designer Tim Reid; Lighting Designer Paul Clayton, Head of Lighting for the National Theatre of Scotland; and Composer/Sound Designer Pippa Murphy, Scottish Opera.

For more information and ticket purchase visit www.lanntair,com