Germinal is a comical, scatterbrained philosophical take on life and the finite nature of our existence.
Basically, this show has a lot of layers.
Created and directed by Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort, the play explores a fictional, present-day post-apocalyptic world that exists within our current world, in which the characters are forced to rebuild life, and the meaning of life, from scratch (and by scratch I mean the random, few pieces of technology they discover in their world).
Paralleling this, the plot also, to some degree, represents the conception and birth of a brand new play – everything begins as an experiment.
The first scene of the show is bit drawn-out. Arnaud Boulogne, Ondine Cloez, Denis Robert and Halory Goerger (all playing themselves) take their time as they slowly begin to discover how to communicate with one another first through thoughts, then through words, then through song. They start out using an array of tools to aid them in their communication process (lighting dimmers, a microphone and a guitar), but soon realize that they are just as capable of communicating without the help of technology.
Eventually, the group decides to derive meaning from all the objects surrounding them and they have to completely rediscover how they think, feel, and interpret the entire world. This is hilariously confusing for them as they begin to categorize the things around them, with each one of their thoughts contributing to the creation of a magical diagram continually being updated and projected on the wall behind them. The problem is, rather than aiming for any sort of cognitive depth, their main criterion for categorization is whether or not the object in question makes the sound “poc poc” when you tap it with a live microphone. From this point forward the show speeds up to an appropriate pace, with all four actors contributing to a hilarious and bizarre scene as they bumble around trying to adhere meaning to their lives.
The technical conception of the show (by Maël Teillant) is absolutely brilliant and is, quite frankly, the selling point of the production. The set consists of a built-in raised stage that the actors smash open throughout, using a pickax, to reveal various implements, as well as other surprises that are unearthed when you least expect it. Projections are used not only for subtitles, but also to display different environmental wallpapers the characters choose off a laptop while designing their world, and various charts and diagrams depicting their process as they try to piece together their thoughts.
This show is a remarkable work of art. The cast does a wonderful job at presenting philosophical queries with child-like exuberance. They question everything we think we know from how the world functions scientifically, to how human beings function socially. The characters constantly trip over themselves and their own thoughts until they finally discover that, eventually, life comes to an end and so must the show.
Produced by l’Amicale de production, Germinal runs at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre until Jan. 23 (in French with English subtitles). For more information visit http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/.