Reviewed – 27th May 2019
“conceptually fascinating, and with further development will hopefully find the formula that unveils its potential”
As part of the Pleasance Theatre’s Science Fiction Festival, Horatio Productions’ ReGen sports an impressive foundation, having been developed with the assistance of actual scientists from the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine of King’s College London. The collaboration of art and science is an ambitious one, and thankfully one that mostly pays off.
Set in a future in which healthcare has been monopolised by the antagonistic Paragon, whose treatments are designed to keep you spending more and more money, Dr Amanda Stuart (Mia Foo) is something of a black market doctor, handing out free treatment to those in need, and who are able to find her well-hidden clinic. That is, until celebrity chef Angel Belmonte (Juan Echenique who also penned the script) barges in, and his need for a cure inadvertently paves the way for a discovery that could revolutionise – as you may have guessed from the speciality of the scientists involved – stem cells and regenerative medicine. The play pitches itself in this setup as an exploration of public versus private healthcare, but as it develops this thread falls to the wayside somewhat, instead focusing on the dynamic between the two characters – which turns out to be a largely very enjoyable dynamic.
Echenique’s script is well-paced, contains a wealth of snappy dialogue, and manages to condense the science into a sense that is easily digestible to the less scientifically adept in the audience (like myself). One section in the latter half centred around rats is particularly brilliant, managing to collide the fearsome potential of the revolutionary treatment with the personal frictions of the characters in a way that ratchets up the tension and comedy to great effect. However, the excellence of this scene does draw attention to other scenes that don’t quite meet this standard, instead feeling quite filmic as they end before they get the chance to truly make an impact. This is especially noticeable as there are some needlessly long transitions as the actors are made to fully rearrange the set made up of tables and stools every time the setting changes, which kills the energy and momentum of the prior action.
Foo and Echenique’s performances are individually engrossing but occasionally lack the cohesion of two actors really listening and responding to each other, and leaves you wishing Fumi Gomez’s direction had spent more attention on fleshing out the conflicts and relationships in the script, instead of focusing on how many configurations of tables and stools can be implemented. ReGen, however, is conceptually fascinating, and with further development will hopefully find the formula that unveils its potential.
Reviewed by Tom Francis
Pleasance Theatre until 1st June as part of their Science Fiction Theatre Festival
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