The writer of Genesis Inc. Jemma Kennedy stated in an interview with Will Mortimer that ‘As a playwright I’m seeking to tell a good story, first and foremost. And I don’t have the right to tell anyone what to believe of what to do. What I do want to do though, is ask people to look at the bigger picture.’
Well, this show certainly does make us look at the bigger picture though, at times the satirical aspect makes us forget the point that Kennedy is trying to make.
This show has a lot of features that are admirable. A plot line about an issue that is important but not widely spoken about? Check! Different plot lines that host a variety of characters: mixed race, gay people, domestic abuse victims? Check! Well-developed characters? Check! But this show also has a level of comedy and satire that can sometimes hinder the point of the show. And, as much as I love some lighthearted comedy thrown in to a show the discusses a serious topic, sometimes it can be overdone, and this is the case for this show.
I understand that this piece is a satirical presentation of private IVF clinics in the UK and how they are money-making industries that, essentially, benefit from infertile men and women. This is a point that I agree with and I agree that they can, at times, promote blind faith. The price of having children is increasing and it is also sad to see women having children later in life because they know that they will have to wait a long time to be able to provide for that child. Minimum wage is remarkably low, prices for house buying is increasing, living expenses are irrationally higher and the threshold for younger mothers is low because of these very well-known facts. The point that Kennedy addresses is both valid and something that should certainly be spoken about more openly. It has become the norm and its theatre’s job to challenge norms. Some of the best theatre creators have challenged, criticised and commented on social norms in their work for years: Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Caryl Churchill, the list goes on.
But this show had some very interesting scenes that were, well, questionable. The most rememberable perhaps is Serena (played by Rita Arya) having a conversation with her vagina as she tries to convince it to carry her child. This character has a tragic storyline. Suffering from two miscarriages and going through many IVF procedures, she cannot have a child. Her husband, Jeff (played by Oliver Alvin-Wilson) was in a relationship previously and has a daughter who attends university, so he already has a child in the so referenced ‘normal’ way. He becomes agitated due to his current wife’s inability to have a child and eventually blows up in her face and cheats on her with, that’s right, his ex who he had the daughter with. Nice job, pal!
But before all this happens, there is a sequence with Serena where she is listening to one of those self-help, rehabilitation, relaxation DVDs, whereby she is told to picture her womb…that’s not all! We are then transported into some kind of dream/inner mind sequence where she talks to her vagina…and the vagina answers back. In this conversation a few figures pop into the mix: her mother, Karl Marx and the ovaries (which are given voices). This sequence descends into something that was quite awkward and slightly confusing. I understand that she was willing her womb to carry a child, but the appearance of Karl Marx is still something of a mystery to me. I am guessing it is some kind of comment on capitalism. I am sure there is a dramaturgical function behind them (and the scene in general) but it is unclear, which is a shame because it was comedic and thoroughly entertaining.
This show is not without praise however. The characters of this show are clearly developed and are played by a wonderful cast including Arthur Darvill playing the character of Mark, a gay man who starts his career as a catholic school music teacher. Mark’s relationship with best friend (and ex-girlfriend!) Bridget (played by Laura Howard) is both charming and truthful. Both struggling and discussing with the potential of parenthood and finances, this unconventional duo has a storyline that has not been seen before.
I will also praise the actors on their passion for this show, especially Darvill who gave a very convincing sperm donation scene in Act Two. With themes such as these, the commitment from the actors cannot be faulted nor ignored. Their skills in multi-rolling were also faultless, and it is clear when they are playing a new character.
The discussions that can come from this piece are limitless and the points that are made are nothing short of relevant and agreeable. But the added aspects of satire are, at times, overpowering and give a lesser meaning to the conversations held within the piece.
Overall, a good show with potential to be something great!
Genesis Inc. is playing at Hampstead Theatre until 28 July 2018
Photo: Manuel Harlan