Bristol Theatre News

Family Tree at Tobacco Factory Theatres

Coming to Tobacco Factory Theatres this June is Family Tree, a powerful new drama exploring race, health and the environment. Its Bristol run heralds the end of a successful national tour of this world premiere production, which has seen Actors Touring Company, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and Brixton House come together in the staging of the show.

Photography: Helen Murray

Family Tree has been inspired by the story of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who – unknowingly to her – became one of the most important people in the progress of medical breakthroughs. This was due to cells taken without her consent in the 1950s, which went on to form the basis of cancer research through the HeLa cell line.

Director Matthew Xia, says: “Mojisola Adebayo is an exceptional writer and I’m excited that her award-winning play will be seen by audiences far and wide. There’s a beauty in her work that responds so well to the present moment whilst also holding historical malpractice to account. It’s fearless, brutally honest, at turns hilarious, and ultimately transformative.

“Henrietta’s HeLa cell line forms the basis of the most important medical research and breakthroughs across the last 70 years, from Cancer and HIV to COVID, we owe our lives to her. Denied her place in history, now is the time to bring Henrietta’s epic legacy to life on stage.”

Writer Mojisola Adebayo wonders why someone so important is so unknown saying: “‘When I met Matthew Xia, Henrietta Lacks came into our minds at exactly the same time. Xia is magic but Lacks is more, she’s immortal and her body has touched every life on the planet – yours, mine… So why have so few people heard of her? Let alone Lucy, Betsey, Anarcha and more… The play paints a family tree of Black women whose cells, blood and waters have birthed, raised and changed the world. Matthew said to me: “I want the audience to leave the theatre looking up”. I went away and wrote a play on a promise. Come see it.”

Family Tree will be at Tobacco Factory Theatres from 13 – 17 June 2023.

For more information or to book, visit:

Aminita Francis Henrietta Lacks
Mofetoluwa Akande Ain, Anarcha, Oshun (multi-rolling parts)
Keziah Joseph Bibi and Betsy (multi-rolling parts)
Aimée Powell Lyn and Lucy (multi-rolling parts)
Alistair Hall Smoking Man

Playwright: Mojisola Adebayo
Director: Matthew Xia
Set and Costume Designer: Simon Kenny
Costume Supervisor Maybelle Laye
Lighting Designer: Simisola Majekodunmi
Sound Designer: Francesca Amewudah-Rivers
Movement Director: Diane Alison Mitchell
Drama Therapist: Wabriya King
Associate Producer: Melina Barnett
Associate Director: Amelia Thornber
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