The ancient Greek fire-breathing monster, Chimera, was made of different parts of more than one animal. It was abnormal, powerful and threatening.
In modern biology, animal chimeras are made up of cells with different genetic origins, formed by the merging of two or more separately fertilised eggs.
From off-Broadway New York and now at The Gate Theatre in London, Deborah Stein’s one-woman monologue, Chimera, mixes this science with precious human attitudes.
Jennifer is a geneticist and was born with a chimera, two sets of DNA – hers, and that of her unborn twin – absorbed in the womb. Her own eggs and other parts of her body have her sister’s DNA. So her son Brian is, from a strictly genetic perspective, also her nephew. This is a revelation that prompts her to walk out on him.
Chimera is a provocative production because it doesn’t explain itself and throws up even more questions. Knowing so much about our DNA makes us lose touch with what makes us human: is Jennifer right to not consider herself Brian’s mother? Or is her condition a eugenic breakthrough?
Sole performer Suli Holum plays Jennifer, Brian, and the narrator: “It’s easy to take a DNA sample from your loved ones. Everyone should do it.” She dances with a virtual image of herself, chats to the audience, and disappears into the kitchen.”