Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, 1 in 9 women and 1 in 1000 men in the UK will develop the disease in their lifetime. After Charlotte Bennett, Artistic Director of Forward Theatre Project met actor Morag Siller who had incurable breast cancer. They decided to work together to create a production that raises awareness of prevention.
It’s a contemporary production that tells the story of genetic testing for breast cancer, set in a modern household in which the mother Rachel (Helen Bradbury) is a leading geneticis. After dedicating her life to discovering these genes that mean your chances of having breast cancer are heightened, she discovers she has the gene herself. Which means her daughter Jade (Joanna Nicks) may also be a carrier.
Although the gene doesn’t mean 100% chance of having breast cancer, it does mean your chances are bigger. Therefore she encourages her patients to embark on preventative methods such as a mastectomy, or removal of the ovaries, as the gene also means an enhanced risk of ovarian cancer.
The production itself is informative and thought-provoking as it tackles a different side of cancer. Helen Bradbury’s portrayal of Rachel is outstanding, she manages to convey her confident and assured self, which never wavers when she discovers she has the gene herself. She is abrupt with her decision to have a full mastectomy, which is a shock to her friend and fellow geneticis Jenny (Charlotte Melia.)
However, it is the relationship Rachel has with her daughter Jade that is at the core of the production. Joanna Nicks approaches the role well, she is a struggling teenager trying to balance her relationship with her mum, exams, application to Oxford University, and relationship with her boyfriend.
Bradbury strikes the perfect balance between being both a loving and pushy mum, whilst her love and affection for Jade is evident, she is consistently putting pressure on her to do well and exceed expectation. Charlotte Melia’s performance as Rachel’s colleague and friend Jenny is a strong necessity in the production. She acts as the middle ground, as although she is involved in the trials and research, she still understands the effect of it all on a patient emotionally.
Elements of physical theatre interjected into the piece, with the addition of innovative lighting and echoes of people of all ages talking about their plans for the future playing between each scene. This is a constant and potent reminder of how people may not react as the researchers may have expected. Although it is a scientific breakthrough, how do people cope with that constant shadow looming over them, knowing they have the gene?
Joanna Nicks really comes out of her shell in the final monologue. Whilst her mother shuns people who don’t want to know if they have the gene or not, calling them ignorant and saying they are wasting the NHS’s money. Nicks’ gives a poignant and hard-hitting response, which she excecutes excellently as an actor.
Genesis masters the scientific elements of prevention, but also delves into the emotional impact it has on the carriers. It is an important piece of theatre that raises awareness of the important breakthroughs in cancer research.
Currently on tour, information can be found here.