The ancient Greek fire-breathing monster, Chimera, was made of different parts of more than one animal. It was abnormal,  powerful and threatening.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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