Review of Germinal Sep 26, 2014

by Julia Fryett

As GERMINAL began last night, the woman behind me alarmingly whispered to her date, “What is that man doing?!”

I wasn’t sure which man she was referring to - the one crumpled in a lump on the side of the stage or the one distractedly directing a psychedelic light with an oversized remote control. Eventually, all four performers stood up and began to silently communicate via text messages projected on a large wall. Texting? Yeah, we do that too. The nervous audience laughter slowly melted away.

Once you accept the reality of the GERMINAL universe, the internal logic of the play makes perfect sense. They are you. If “you", for example, were a digital native who spontaneously combusted on Mars.

For the next ninety minutes, we observed characters who had found themselves in a claustrophobic nano-universe, compressed within four theatrical walls. 

Halory, Antoine, Arnaud and Ondine exist in a surreal, post big bang, dream. Remarkably, they learn to communicate almost solely through electronic technologies that are built into the landscape of the stage. Mining the floorboards with a pick axe, Ondine cracks the ground and uncovers a microphone, a guitar and more remote controls. At one point, they use an anonymous intercom to place an anonymous call to an anonymous voice who offers a “starter kit” complete with the law of thermodynamics, a wheel and fire. They reject the wheel and fire in favor of a laptop. The voice explains that the laptop is their instruction manual for life. When turned on, it instantly projects an image of a snow-capped mountain on the stage. GERMINAL begins to feel like an embryonic video game.

According to some physicists, a billion universes with infinite versions of you are forming at every moment. If this is true, it’s not difficult to imagine that in some far off galaxy, pixelated cave men are unearthing an iPhone 6 from a dusty black hole.

Media archeologists in a cosmic void, the beings of GERMINAL mediate language and experience with technology. The fifth character, unseen to the audience, is Sébastien Bausseron who deftly controls the choreography of lighting and sound. Timed with a precise, rapid rhythm, he programs an exquisite world that evolves beyond cyborg-esque absurdity with a fresh breath of optimism.

Read more work by Julia on her blog.