Blood is billed as a tale of two political exiles from Chile who, in the confusion of escape, lose their son and spend the ensuing years trying to find him. In fact, it's writer Lars Noren’s attempt at updating the Oedipus story, but he does so in such a literal and heavy-handed manner that it becomes extremely hard to take seriously.
The idea that the Royal Court limits itself to violent and gratuitous pieces of writing with the intention of shocking audiences is unfounded, but Blood conforms to that cliché. We watch journalist Rosa and psychiatrist Eric try to “pull themselves out of the grave” and continue with life. As the predictable Oedipal plot unfolds, it's punctuated with sexual and violent episodes.
It seems Rosa has a ‘fetish’ and begs her husband, not for sex as we first suspect, but ritual humiliation and beating akin to that she received at the hands of her captors in Chile. This opens up possibilities for an interesting exploration of the nature of relationships and her reasons: is it because she wants to punish herself for losing her child? Does she enjoy it? None of this addressed, and once the scene is over, it's never referred to again. In a similar way, the possibility that Eric’s male lover may be HIV positive is thrown up, but once again quickly dismissed.
It seems Noren was so captivated with the idea of updating Oedipus, he followed his plan rigidly and, unfortunately, failed to take advantage of the opportunities the play offered along the way. The result is a predictable, unconvincing piece of writing. This, teamed with sluggish scene changes and too many props, makes the piece feel overlong.
So the actors are fighting a losing battle. Nevertheless, under director James Macdonald’s steady hand, they deliver some interesting performances. Francesca Annis has a quiet, calm dignity throughout the proceedings, never rising to the piece’s melodramatic potential. Nicholas Le Prevost struggles valiantly but is woefully miscast and unpersuasive, particularly in the sexual scenes with his lover Luca.
And as Luca, Tom Hardy has the toughest job, finding motive and truth in his character’s sketchy journey. He hits the spot at the most unexpected moments making imaginative and exciting choices, but ultimately it’s a patchy performance because the material lets him down.
If only this wonderful cast and director had put their talents into a wonderful rather than mediocre play.