#Genesis – A Starting Point @ Münchner Kammerspiele Review

Born in Jerusalem in 1976, Yael Ronen is one of the most intriguing directors of her generation. Hakaoh Berlindeveloped at Schauspielhaus Graz, was awarded the Austrian Nestroy Theatre Prize in 2013. Common Ground, a meditation on the aftermath of the war in former Yugoslavia, was invited to the renowned Theatertreffen Festival at Berlin and won the audience award at Mülheimer Theatertage in 2015. Her production The Situation at Gorki Theatre was invited to the Theatertreffen in 2016.

Courtesy of David Baltzer.

Courtesy of David Baltzer.

Yael Ronen is known for using black humour in the framework of historical conflicts, which was particularly obvious in the darkly satirical play Point of No Return at the Kammerspiele in 2016. Now the director returns with a production focusing on the Book of Genesis – the creation of the world and the roots of Western culture. Together with the Kammerspiele ensemble, Yael Ronen examines individual fragments and motifs to explore how biblical images have influenced us and what they mean to us today.

While Genesis, like many other myths, was written to provide orientation and identity in archaic cultures, Yael Ronen’s production is based on the individual perspective – and what has become of the world which God gave to mankind. Many current issues can be traced back to the Bible: domination of nature, the gender debate, themes of jealousy and violence, and most of all the question of whether humanity is in the act of reaching for forbidden fruit by idolising technological progress.

With the safety curtain still lowered, six actors enter from stage right. Damien Rebgetz declares that he will leave Munich. Artistic Director Matthias Lilienthal‘s vision did not go well with the more conservative audience in Munich and Rebgetz will return to Berlin because he feels unloved, leaving Lilienthal’s Garden of Eden behind. His speech is in English and Wiebke Puls provides her interpretation of his monologue in German, assuring the audience that she is going to stay. Rebgetz’s ironic lament is followed by discussions about God and religion – “Does God believe in God?”, exploring the similarities between God and the relationship with one’s father. Eventually Damien Rebgetz is getting impatient:  “Will he talk about my childhood or Genesis?”

The curtain rises to Wolfgang Menardi‘s impressive stage design. Two huge discs are moving apart until they resemble an open pocket watch. The upper disc serves as a screen for projections (Video: Stefano di Buduo) and entails a mirror allowing for a divine perspective of the humans situated on the lower disc. Paintings and biblical scenes are projected, giving the impression that the actors are moving inside those potent images. Menardi’s design creates dream worlds and fires the imagination, supported by Amit Epstein’s unique costumes.

Apart from Genesis, the production also discusses different creation myths because every culture seems to have one.  In Japan, the goddess Izanagi gave birth to the fire god. The Egyptian god Aton had sex with his fist to create the world. Yet in the Bible, we meet a god who is lonely because he won’t acknowledge other gods. After creating Adam, God is presented as a single father dealing with disobedient children, who are involved in discussions about gender and the #MeToo movement instead  of appreciating what they have. Lilith makes an appearance as the mother of Adam and Eve, along with a Mesopotamian fertility goddess. Samouil Stoyanov is outstanding as an omnipotent, irate God. Damian Rebgetz is hilarious as a gay Adam who is supposed to romance the charismatic blonde Eve, played by Wiebke Puls.

This production works because it combines satirical scenes with autobiographical details of the diverse  ensemble. Father issues are seen in relation with their doubts of God. Personal experiences are compared with motifs in the Bible.

A darkly funny and intriguing examination of Genesis and what it means to us today. 4/5

Review written by Carolin Kopplin

#GENESIS will return on 30th January, 11th, 22nd and 23rd February 2019For more info, click here

Written by Theatrefullstop