Genesis 37, performing at the Cockpit Theatre, is a sci-fi play about a world where an illness has killed three-quarters of the women on Earth. The rest have been left infertile and so the world must resort to cloning to save the human race.
The World’s Advanced Neuroscience Department (W.A.N.D) has created the world’s first clones and invites us to meet them. Two scientists are our hosts for the evening: Mrs H with an orange loop in her hair that makes her look like a post-modern Teletubby and Dr Michael Monahan, in white robes with long dark hair tied in two buns; reminiscent of a futuristic Jesus. The live sections at the Cockpit are cross-cut with abstract films of women regurgitating orange bubbling fluid and white balloons flecked with blood being sliced open. These short-films with their broken television effects and soundscape of sex noises are unimaginative and seem, unfortunately, very amateur.
Utilising the medium of Zoom, we meet our first clones. Big Brother style, we watch these clones in their quarters and interact with them, even telling them what activity they should be doing. We vote on what we would like Elpida, our first clone, to do and are given two options: the audience opts for ‘take a cold shower’. She gets into bath water filled with sunflowers in a white robe, reminiscent of scenes from Ari Aster’s Midsommar and, to distract from the lack of nudity, Mrs H. says: ‘we don’t understand yet why she wears the robe’. I query why the writers chose an action that makes it so obvious this is a staged experience? This authenticity is further broken by audience questions to Elpida about her life. This section of the play is awkward: audience interaction coupled with unscripted dialogue makes for stilted conversations that make it difficult to get past the fact that we are speaking with an actor through an iPad Zoom call.
We next meet Nikki, our second clone, who is in her late twenties but is described as having the mental age of a 43 year old. In a not-so-subtle reference to the inspiration for this play, Nikki is having disturbed sleep after reading Orwell’s 1984 and Kafka, and has ‘nihilistic tendencies’. Again we have awkward conversation with Nikki through Zoom. I believe that this imagery is meant to mirror these clones being like zoo animals, but in reality the audience’s discomfort comes from the inauthenticity of forced interactions rather than the transgressing of societal realities.
My primary issue with Genesis 37 is that unlike the rich worlds of Orwell, Kafka or Huxley that are clear inspirations for this piece, the writers have not visibly understood the subtleties that come with these stories. In the iconic dystopian pieces that serve as inspiration for this piece, the harrowing element is the visibility of reality within the constructed worlds, and this is lost within the increasingly abstract world of Genesis 37 where women are coated with sparkly orange facepaint, or wear yellow eyeliner that runs across the entirety of the actor’s face. The abstract and inauthentic imagery of Genesis 37 does not feel believable even for a dystopian reality, and thus all exploration of this landscape falls flat.
Genesis 37 is playing until 13 December. For more information and tickets see Cockpit Theatre’s website.