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The Theatreguide.London Review

Genesis Inc.
Hampstead Theatre  Summer 2018

It seems, from the shape of Jemma Kennedy's new drama-comedy-satire-polemic, that she had some ideas for a play but hasn't written the play itself.

Or, rather, that she had ideas for several plays on the same topic, wrote bits of each of them, and then pasted them together in the hope that they'd make a coherent whole. 

They don't, and Genesis Inc is best enjoyed as a collection of separate sketches on a common theme, some of them quite entertaining. 

Kennedy's subject is IVF and the whole industry of medical assistance to infertile couples. We meet the doctor-businessman who runs a fertility clinic and some of his customers. 

Among them are a woman pathetically desperate to become a mother, so much so that she hardly notices how she is freezing out and rejecting her supportive husband. 

There's also a high-flying businesswoman who freezes some eggs so she can schedule any potential pregnancy when it will be most convenient and profitable for her, and her gay best friend, who she keeps around as a potential sperm donor. 

Also in the mix, sometimes for no apparent reason, are a battered housewife, an amiable priest, a talking uterus and vagina, and the ghosts of Karl Marx and Susan Sontag. 

Apart from the multiple plot lines, you can probably sense from that list a jumble of tones and emotional depths. 

The desperate would-be mother generates real pathos, while the businesswoman starts as a satirical figure, becomes rather ugly in her coldness, and then invites our sympathy. 

The doctor, promising miracles and charging thousands for every failure, is alternately comic and demonic. And several fantasy sequences remember those chatty organs simply clash with everything around them, even though they are among the more entertaining parts of the play. 

A comic scene harking back to the biblical story of God granting a late-life pregnancy to Abraham and Sarah plays like an out-take from an undergraduate sketch show, as does the talking-uterus scene and one in which a sperm donor's masturbation fantasies somehow involve a visit and commentary by sexual-politics essayist Susan Sontag. 

These are, in fact, the best scenes in the show, though they have little or nothing to do with any of the main characters or plots. 

At the end spoiler alert! - nothing has been resolved, nobody is pregnant and yet somehow everybody is happy, lulled by a rather lovely (and totally irrelevant) song by the gay guy about love being what really creates and sustains families. 

Everyone in the hard-working cast, most of them playing several subsidiary characters as well as their main roles, does admirable work. 

Ritu Arya as the desperate would-be mother and Laura Howard as the more cynical one stand out, with strong support from Oliver Alvin-Wilson as the marginalised husband and Arthur Darvill as the gay guy, while Harry Enfield drops in for what amounts to a cameo as the doctor.

Director Laurie Sansom gets strong performances from all of them but is unable to keep the play's various plots and moods from spinning off in different directions.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Genesis Inc - Hampstead Theatre 2018

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