Theatre review: Genesis Inc at Hampstead Theatre

The Cast of Genesis Inc

The Cast of Genesis Inc - Credit: Archant

Caroline David gives Genesis Inc a two-star review.



The 40th anniversary next month of the first ‘test tube baby’ makes Hampstead’s staging of a play that raises questions about IVF and the booming industry that surrounds it very timely.

Jemma Kennedy’s Genesis Inc. – part soap, part satire – has some witty flights of fancy and fiery debates about the ethics of financially ordained reproduction. Harry Enfield stars as the messianic Doctor Marshall heading up a fictitious clinic Genesis Inc. And the National Theatre of Scotland’s talented former Artistic Director Laurie Sansom does his best to fashion the material into a coherent whole.

But the play has serious flaws.

What’s lacking is a good plot and substantial characters. Thirty something Serena and Jeff have tried several rounds of IVF and are so strapped for cash they’ve sold their car to try again. Forty something financier Bridget has frozen her eggs and propositions life-long, gay best friend Miles to be her baby-daddy.

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Trouble is, Miles is crippled with feelings of inadequacy so declines Bridget but is happy to provide sperm for Serena [after she falls out with Jeff] because it’s merely a financial transaction. Yes, this is the logic of the ‘pixilated generation,’ as Kennedy sees it. Scenes repeatedly feel set up for ethical argument with the emotional needs of the women who desperately want children or are fearful of missing the pregnancy boat rendered in broad brushstrokes.

There are some amusing surreal riffs, though it’s hard to know what to take from, say, seeing Serena’s doctor disco dancing in spangles after impregnating her successfully given that the human stories never fully draw you in. A scene in which Miles [Arthur Darvill – a beacon of light in the play] masturbates in the clinic while imagining his heroine Susan Sontag delivering a theoretical feminist diatribe is better. But at 2 hours 40 the play is far too wayward and diffuse and needs a rigorous edit. The facts about IVF science and the barrage of details about multiple fertility packages give us plenty to consider. It’s a shame the play fails to make the emotional impact its subject deserves.