Anastasia Bunce on Blood On Your Hands at Southwark Playhouse

From the company behind Meat Cute (Edinburgh Fringe, VAULT Festival 2023) and Birdie’s Adventures in the Animal Kingdom (Greenhouse Theatre 2023, Harrow Arts Centre 2022) comes Blood On Your Hands, a contemporary play about the forgotten victims of the meat industry: slaughterhouse workers.

It’s Ukrainian ex-veterinarian Kostyantyn’s first day at the slaughterhouse, where he meets Dan, a happy-go-lucky Welsh lad who cracks too many jokes for his own good. Despite their grim working conditions, an unexpected friendship begins to form. Meanwhile, Kostyantyn’s wife and daughters are home in Ukraine, and Dan’s activist ex-girlfriend won’t stop pestering him at work…

Amidst bleak conditions, this is a tale of human strength, connection and hope. Will the two men save each other from slaughter?

Directed by Anastasia Bunce and starring Ivan Doan, Liv Jekyll, Philip John Jones, Kateryna Hryhorenko and Jordan El-Balawi, Blood on Your Hands has been shortlisted and longlisted for national awards such as BBC Writersroom, the New Diorama Theatre Untapped Award, the Phoebe Frances Brown Award, the London Library Emerging Writers Programme, and the Masterclass Pitch Your Play award.

Ahead of opening at Southwark Playhouse we interviewed director Bunce, who also founded Patch Plays, about the production.

Q&A with Anastasia Bunce

What inspired you to found Patch Plays?

As a theatre maker who has always been passionate about animal rights and sustainability, I wanted to fuse my two loves. Theatre has had a politically active history, so why not create theatre that urges audiences to consider some of the most pressing contemporary issues surrounding our climate and the treatment of our fellow creatures?

wanted to create a space to explore important issues close to my heart through an entertaining medium, as I believe this is one of the most effective ways to engage audiences empathy with topics they may have never encountered before.

In 2020 (amidst the pandemic) I’d finished my master’s in theatre directing and was itching to make theatre. A friend and I produced an evening of outdoor theatre featuring 4 short plays investigating climate change and animal ethics by Richmond Riverside, and thus Patch Plays began its journey.

What can you tell us about Blood on Your Hands?

‘Blood On Your Hands’ sees two men from very different backgrounds (one a Ukrainian refugee, Kostyantyn, the other a working-class Welsh Lad Dan) form a beautiful friendship amidst bleak circumstances at a slaughterhouse. It is original, funny, and thought-provoking. Spoiler: some blood may be spilled…

Production image from the 2022 run. Photo: Louis Cao

What was it that attracted you to Grace Joy Howarth’s play?

Grace’s writing is subtle and truthful, it reels you into a world that feels very close to home despite being worlds away. When I first read ‘Blood On Your Hands’ I wanted to be a part of the friendship shared between its two main characters. Her characters are charming and real and inhabit a difficult world where they strive to better their circumstances and towards freedom. It is an inspiring and universally relevant play. I have never read a play that investigates the effects of slaughterhouses on it’s workers. I think it’s an important topic.

How have you approached coming back to the play following its 2022 run, and are you doing anything differently this time?

Returning to a show is always a priviledge as you have a blueprint for what was artisitcally effective as well as time for further refinement and discovery.

Though the show retains the same structure and core artistic team, we have made small but detailed changes. We have worked on the script dramatugically and with insight from our Ukrainian actors have hopefully added needed authenticity to scenes that take place between Kostyantyn and his wife Nina.

We are also experimenting with technology with video montage projections, feauturing a new scene with content from vegan social media creators that we are excited to share.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the play?

We hope that audiences come away with empathy towards the gritty work that takes place in slaughterhouses and are inspired to reflect on how they can be a part of change in their day to day lives.

Blood On Your Hands is at Southwark Playhouse Borough from 17 January to 3 February