Thursday, January 21, 2016


 About the Show *
(for further info see preview in previous BATEMAN REVIEWS blog post)

Germinal features individuals who seethe stage as an empty and fruitful space where everything is in the making. Within this space, efforts will be made to create a system or, in more candid terms, one might say a world.

As we watch it unfold the actors take it as an opportunity to construct and deconstruct the history of science, technology and societal structures in an experimental way, but always with the greatest care and good grace. Remaking everything, but without any moralistic intention.

In Germinal we are indeed reinventing the wheel, but in doing so we are questioning almost everything and putting it on trial, from the laws of physics to the foundations of social interaction. And this is done within the relatively narrow context of an empty performance stage.

If we had the opportunity to start from scratch, even in a space of 8 metres by 10 metres, how would we do it?

* FROM THE PROGRAM NOTES FOR Germinal, Harborfront Centre, World Stage

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” John Berger, Ways of Seeing

"Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire." Roland Barthes

Seeing and knowing, language and desire, speaking from the tips of our fingers, and the knowledge of something not quite fitting what we see and imagine it to be, are all modes of genuine and engaging inquiry that the current production of Germinal at Harborfront Centre’s World Stage embodies in a wonderful and witty, clever and complex manner. As I watched I was reminded of walking through my neighbourhood – on the edge of Dundas Square – as it moves, on any given day, from a blaringly serene asphalt meeting place to a swarm of stultifyingly frenzied activity. It is a daily challenge navigating the mind blowing/numbing, sensation-throbbing experience of humans and all their accoutrement as they scramble among intersecting pedestrian crossings, gigantic screens pulsing with images and information, and cell phones that have taken the place of eyes and ears that actually notice the real life surrounding them. But that’s just my single subjective take on being alive in a simultaneously deadening, enlivening and explosive social miasma. Germinal takes a lighter look at the chaos of creating a world of sight and sound – but it is a lightness sprinkled generously with very dark and thought provoking overtones.    
What begins as a bare stage with relative silence gracing the space becomes…well, it is hard to describe Germinal without giving something crucial away about the gradual and sublime journey one is taken on during this ninety minute tour de force featuring four performers and a cacophony of …oops, another potential spoiler alert.

In a ntushell, Germinal explores language, silence, technology, music and a plethora of unidentifiable social nuance in an elegant at times wildly celebratory manner – moving as gradually from the blank slate of the beginning to a kind of apocalyptic playground by the end.

Surtitles mix with visual and language based projections that turn the overall experience into a fabulous exercise in navigating the mechanics of the contemporary stage as it becomes an integral part of a quartet of gifted bodies that traverse the boundaries of  dialogue, music, technology and finding one’s way in a world at once bound, gagged, liberated, set free, and damned by language and technology and their increasingly subservient, all too human counterparts.

As a kind of post-modern Waiting for Godot, Germinal pulls out all the existentialist stops during an hour and a half of deadly serious fun that goes nowhere and everywhere all at the same time (like this review!?) The audience laughter, coming in on opening night like a slow tide that built toward outright guffaw, is as gradual and as heartfelt as the ways in which the performers reach out to each other with words and sounds as they discover a new way of enacting old ways of being, seeming, and believing.

Germinal promises to make you seem to be believing in the power of performance and the power of communal effort in a simple, complex, and utterly entertaining and enlightening way.


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