Thoughts on Germinal Sep 30, 2014
by Shin Yu Pai
I was surprised and fascinated by the unintended Buddhist undercurrents in Germinal. The actors blossom in their awareness of language, perception, and ego – and the role that thought plays in manifesting reality. As the actors divided their experiences into “poc poc” (material) and “not poc poc” (immaterial) and somewhere in between – “ouch and poc poc” (i.e. the suffering of getting hit on the head with a mic), the categorizations began to break down into what human beings are able to attach value to. The joy of being together – i.e. presence, as a formless and empty abstract concept, but one that resonates with the “poc poc” of the heart experience. The moment when Antoine, Hallory, and Ondine join hands on stage and move through love, compassion, embarrassment, and discomfort, was a powerful moment of presence and witnessing and engagement.
The four actors end up in a “skanky swamp” – analogous to the place where the symbol of enlightenment, the lotus flower, blooms. In this space of swampiness, they try to make sense of perception and the trajectory of time from past to present to future.
Of all four of the characters, I was most interested in Ondine. As the female actor wielding the pick-axe, she took on the destructive/creative energy of Kali. At another time she crossed into Antoine’s personal space, offering him before that, with compassion, the opportunity to be an equal in voicing his expression on what had previously been her projection panel.
As the performance came to a close, she took on something of a conductor’s role – and though Hallory seemed to be leading the show, I left feeling much more invested in Ondine’s presence.