Poc Poc My Heart: GERMINAL at On the Boards Sep 27, 2014
by Jessica Wesley
When Antoine Defoort & Halory Goerger's GERMINAL was described to me, the first thing that came to mind was the book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, which explores, "How our planet would respond without the relentless pressure of human presence." I imagined our four newly conscious humans perplexedly making their way through the detritus of our once brilliant civilization. I think I may need take a break from reading dystopian fiction...
In actuality, GERMINAL is nearly the reverse, as four human beings discover their own consciousness and begin to explore and shape a brand new universe inside the four walls of the theatre without any preconceived notions or expectations.
Technology was nearly a fifth character in the play, having an invaluable role in the development of this universe. The team of new humans discover their ability to communicate through text and technology first, their thoughts projected on panels on the back wall. They only test the power of their own voices after digging up a microphone hidden in the depths of the floor with a pick axe. The "manual" for the universe is itself a laptop (with a very recognizable hill-themed wallpaper), used to control the projections on the back wall and the development of their environment.
Together, the characters decide that their ultimate goal is to create a chronological series of events. And as they go about it, categorizing and digging up more of their world in the process, the show is by turns thoughtful, funny, and optimistic. The characters make the most of their small universe, celebrating the unique series of events they created there.
When I tried to picture this play, I imagined an exploration of human consciousness more like Sartre - if funny, then darkly so - and expected that I would leave the theatre with less faith in humanity than when I walked in. I was pleasantly surprised by the shows playful optimism and left the theatre with a bit more bounce in my step, and a more hopeful outlook as I resume writing the next event in my own small universe.