Tag Archives: John Black

The Geminus


Tristan Bates Theatre

The Geminus

The Geminus

Tristan Bates Theatre

Reviewed – 13th August 2019



“it’s certainly entertaining but not, for the most part, in the manner in which it was intended”


Based on Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Secret Sharer’, The Geminus tells the tale of Captain Hotson and his unexpected romance with nautical fugitive Leggatt. Hotson (John Black) is a novice captain, grappling with his newfound authority and responsibility. Taking the night’s watch alone, he finds Leggatt (Gareth Wildig) clinging for dear life on the side of his ship. After Leggatt’s explanation of how he came to be involved in the death of a man on his own ship, Hotson decides he seems like an alright fellow, fetches him some matching silk pyjamas and stows him away in his quarters.

Neither gentleman feels the need to button up their silky jammies as they circle one another, discovering such fun facts as they’ve both been to the same public boys’ school. “What happened to your clothes?”, asks Captain Hotson. Leggatt moves ever closer to the captain, shirts billowing open…

The Geminus comes across as poorly written homo-erotica, without the actual deed. It’s neither one thing or another really – neither a close study of a covert, forbidden relationship, nor an outrageously sexy romp. Writer and director Ross Dinwiddy seems set on making this a serious story, but simultaneously takes literally any opportunity to create sexual tension. When explaining why he didn’t swim away on being spotted on the side of the ship, for example, Leggatt looks intensely at his new acquaintance, and purrs, “I didn’t mind being looked at… I liked it.”

The unnatural dialogue doesn’t give much opportunity for great performances, though the most enjoyable scene to watch is certainly the almost farcical encounter between Captain Hotson and Ma Gwen (Christine Kempell) playing captain of the Sephora, Leggatt’s former ship. Ma Gwen boards the ship looking for her former first mate who is, of course, hiding only a few steps away. There’s something a little pantomimish, which again doesn’t really work if we’re to take this story seriously and experience any real feeling of danger in Leggatt’s almost getting caught, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

The set is simple, with only a table and stools, a bed (of course) and a helm, but a blue light washes over the stage, and we hear crashing waves throughout the production, which serves to keep the audience at sea. There are a couple of moments when the performers struggle to be heard over the soundtrack but for the most part it’s effective.

Whether Dinwiddy decides to take a closer look at what it is that brings these two men together and what will inevitably keep them apart, or whether he leans in to the overly erotic and outrageous, there is something interesting at the core of this story. As it stands however, it’s certainly entertaining but not, for the most part, in the manner in which it was intended.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography courtesy Blue Devil Productions


Camden Fringe

The Geminus

 Tristan Bates Theatre
until 17th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Oranges & Ink | ★★ | March 2019
Mortgage | ★★★ | April 2019
Sad About The Cows | ★★ | May 2019
The Luncheon | ★★★ | June 2019
To Drone In The Rain | ★★ | June 2019
Class | ★★★★ | July 2019
Sorry Did I Wake You | ★★★★ | July 2019
The Incident Pit | ★½ | July 2019
When It Happens | ★★★★★ | July 2019
Boris Rex | ★★ | August 2019

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Rope – 4 Stars



Rialto Theatre – Brighton Fringe

Reviewed – 11th May 2018


“hysterically funny despite its morbid subject matter”


Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will immediately recognise Rope as the source material for his 1948 film of the same name. But though Patrick Hamilton’s piece is of a slightly different flavour, it isn’t a stretch to see why it appealed so much to the Master of Suspense.

Set in 1920s London, we spend an evening in the lives of Brandon and Granillo, two students who have killed a young man named Ronald Kentley. There is no reason for the murder except to prove that they can get away with it. Brandon, the ultra-vain mastermind, refers to the deed as “passionless, motiveless, faultless, and clueless”, that is to say, “perfect”. However, Granno (as he is affectionately referred to by Brandon) is less than convinced that they are going to get away with it. Brandon has decided to host a dinner for several guests, including Kentley’s father, but to add “piquancy” to the affair, he has hidden his victim’s remains within spitting distance of the diners, in a large wooden crate in the middle of the room.

Most unusually for a piece of this kind, we start the play knowing exactly who the murderers are and, in a perverse twist, find ourselves encouraged to root for them. Brandon’s enthusiasm for “living dangerously” is infectious, and it is hard not to feel sympathy for the nerve-frazzled Granno who one suspects was never that keen on the killing at all. In a traditional suspense play, for example a whodunnit, we may not know exactly “who has done it”, but we know the formula and we know roughly what the conclusion must be (or what must be done to subvert it). So unusual is Rope’s conceit of letting us in on the secret immediately, that we are genuinely left guessing as to its trajectory until the dying seconds. To reveal the path it does take would be to give away too many plot points, but suffice to say the second half is just as surprising as the first, not always an easy task to pull off.

Rope is also hysterically funny despite its morbid subject matter; it is a testament to the cast that they are able so effectively to tread the line between humour and suspense. The central characters themselves operate as the embodiments of these two aspects of the play. Watching Graeme Dalling’s performance as the deliciously cold Brandon is like a joyride, and just as he marvels at the craftsmanship of his murder, so the audience are undeniably impressed by drama’s deft construction. Meanwhile the anxious guilt of John Black’s Granno perfectly echoes the nail-biting tension from which we are never free.

The piece is exceptionally well suited to the small space we are in; the claustrophobia of the apartment setting spreads seamlessly into the audience. The size of the place – as well as the number of people squeezed in – means that you are likely to find your view of goings-on significantly obstructed, but such is the nature of the play that this turns out to be a minor issue. Indeed, it almost serves to create the impression that we are peeping through a keyhole, seeing things that we shouldn’t be in the room next door.

Though the characters routinely reference Nietzsche and discuss over dinner the ethics of murder and war, there is no “moral” to Rope per se. We are left to draw our own conclusions from the actions of Brandon and Granno and test our own consciences against their professed lack thereof. This is fitting as didactics would undoubtedly dampen the play’s sense of dread, as well as our ambiguous relationship with the protagonists. Ultimately, though, much like the motiveless murder itself, the play aims squarely to entertain, and on that count, it very much succeeds.


Reviewed by Harry True



Brighton Fringe


Other productions of this play
★★★★ | Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | February 2018


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