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GENESIS INC. at Hampstead Theatre | Review

The cast of Genesis Inc. at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Manuel Harlan
The cast of Genesis Inc. at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Forty years ago in July, history was made as the world’s first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation was born. Suddenly couples that couldn’t have children before were able, thanks to the intervention of medical science, to conceive and produce their own offspring. Since then IVF has moved on in leaps and bounds and is now a multi-billion pound industry spanning the globe and is the subject of Jemma Kennedy’s play Genesis Inc. receiving its world premiere at the Hampstead Theatre.

The story follows two people who want to have a baby. Serena (Ritu Arya) is married to social worker Jeff (Oliver Alvin-Wilson) and feels unfilled as they are childless. She is also jealous since Jeff already has a daughter from a previous girlfriend. Then there is Bridget (Laura Howard) a career woman who has put her eggs into cold storage but now feels ready to bring a child into her life. Serene, Jeff and Bridget are putting their reproductive lives into the hands of the most respected fertility clinic Genesis, run by Dr Marshall (Harry Enfield). The clinic is fabulous from Receptionist Kiki (Kirsty Besterman) through to the Doctor himself. It is also doing very well financially and Dr Marshall is looking at floating the company on the stock exchange – something which is of even more interest to city trader Bridget than becoming a mother. Serena is definitely impressed with the setup but Jeff is less convinced, particularly when it comes to the cost. Being a social worker he sees his fair share of deprivation – take his client Sharon (Clare Perkins), paying her unemployed husband money to not beat her up. But Serina wants to be a mother and turns to her own mother (Shobu Kapoor) for advice. Bridget, on the other hand, may have the eggs but needs an appropriate donor – maybe Miles (Arthur Darvill) her half Jewish gay best friend could be the answer, particularly as Bridget is helping Miles by pretending to be his fiance at the Catholic School where he works under the supervision of the handsome Father Scales (Arthur Wilson). As things progress will Genesis be able to supply everyone’s needs and give everyone the happy ending they desire?

Harry Enfield in Genesis Inc. at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Manuel Harlan
Harry Enfield in Genesis Inc. at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Manuel Harlan

There is an awful lot going on Genesis Inc. Possibly too much. Ostensibly, the play is about two women that want a baby, but over its rather long 2 hours 40 minutes run-time, Jemma Kennedy has tried to cover a lot of ground – domestic abuse, betrayal, closeted gays, power, lust, greed, faith, religion, the list goes on. This is, to my mind, a mistake and the play could definitely do with tightening up. For example, other than to highlight the differences between the problems encountered by the working and middle classes, the whole subplot with Jeff and Sharon seems rather pointless. Which is a shame as Clare Perkins pulls off a fantastic piece of acting as the salt of the earth, put-upon but still in charge Sharon. There are moments in the script that are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny but other times where it feels like the writer is signalling comedic episodes way in advance – the teacher and the baby monitor being a massive case in point. Overall the story feels muddled and overcomplicated. And, if I’m honest the second act, from the opening biblical dream sequence to the final end was really bizarre and the sight of Arthur Darvill doing what he did in the way he did in the clinic was not only disturbing but will probably haunt my dreams for a long while to come.

Director Laurie Sansom has a lot of room to maneuver the cast around and Designer Jess Curtis has produced a set that represents the various locations pretty well. My only criticism here was that there were too many video screens doing very little and was it really not possible to get furniture that was on wheels so it could be moved around the stage in a less clunky manner between scenes?

Turning to the actors. Arthur Darvill got a chance to show off his excellent singing voice and was very convincing as the closeted Miles. Likewise, Laura Howard’s hard, work-oriented Bridget was extremely well done and the two of them together made a very good – and highly believable – pair that were never going to be more than just BFFs. Unfortunately, and this feels really wrong but I must be truthful, I really didn’t like Harry Enfield’s Dr Marshal who, to my mind, came across as a bit of a dodgy used car salesman and if I had been there, I would have left the clinic at the first opportunity, not handing over a penny of my hard earned money.

Overall, Genesis Inc just didn’t do it for me. I thought the plot was too busy and the show too long. Whilst the acting was overall really good, I felt the cast had been let down in the writing. This could have been a very thought-provoking play but instead, I left the theatre feeling as if it could have done with being incubated a little while longer.

2 gold stars

Review by Terry Eastham

‘Cyclist are you? Good for the lungs, less so for the sperm. Try fast walking instead’
Hampstead Theatre presents the world premiere of Jemma Kennedy’s breakthrough play, the blisteringly entertaining Genesis Inc. Directed by Laurie Sansom, this is a multifaceted tale of the final frontier of 21st-century capitalism: the privatisation of human reproduction. This richly imaginative, topical, and explosively funny new comedy takes a closer look at the lengths to which people will go to defy biology – and at the moral compass of an industry that trades on fear and hope.

Harry Enfield makes his Hampstead Theatre debut in the roles of Dr Marshall, God, Karl Marx and Margaret Mead. He is joined by Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Ritu Arya, Kirsty Besterman, Arthur Darvill, Laura Howard, Shobu Kapoor, Clare Perkins and Arthur Wilson.

Written by Jemma Kennedy
Directed by Laurie Sansom
Designed by Jess Curtis
Lighting by Oliver Fenwick
Composition by Zara Nunn
Sound by Gareth Fry
Video by Ian William Galloway
Movement by Georgina Lamb

By Jemma Kennedy
Directed by Laurie Sansom
22 June – 28 July


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