Camden Fringe 2019: The Geminus at Tristan Bates Theatre
Polish-British Modernist author Joseph Conrad’s novella, The Secret Sharer, comes alive in this adaptation by award-winning theatre company Blue Devil Productions. Conrad – regularly considered to be one of the greatest British novelists – spent much of his life at sea, which his work draws upon. Writer and director Ross Dinwiddy takes Conrad’s short story, intertwining a timely love story within the nautical thriller.
On board the Geminus is Hotson (John Black), a newly appointed Captain still finding his feet, assisted by Frizer (Ben Baeza) and Skeres (Robert Cohen), who together make up a small group of shipmates holed up in close quarters, “stuck without so much as a breeze”. The stage contains a steering wheel and ladder, while concentrated blue light and the sound of water lapping can be heard throughout, sometimes distracting from the dialogue. Hotson decides to man the upper decks, despite Frizer’s suspicions as to why a Captain would take up these responsibilities usually left for the deckhands.
Just after midnight, a man suddenly appears, half-naked and slightly shaken; this is Leggatt (Gareth Wildig) who has escaped after allegedly killing another man on his ship, The Sephora. Both Hotson and Leggatt are ostracised, and they begin to fall for one another through mutual friendship and empathy. Leggatt is more forward in his affections, gently touching Hotson’s arm, who is visibly uncomfortable with the attention shown him, but in time he begins to reciprocate. Frizer shows his disdain for the Captain by continually making snide remarks, and interrupts him regularly as he attempts to harbour a fugitive in his room.
As the play develops, we are introduced to the only female in the production, Ma Gwen (played with strict alertness by Christine Kempell) who comes on board the Geminus looking for Leggatt. There are some humorous parts in Dinwiddy’s play, particularly in the scene when Hotson feigns deafness to ensure Leggatt can overhear everything as he hides. However, it is the building attraction between the two men that is most sharply defined, through a heavy script that does not fully reveal the danger of Hotson’s predicament; with some edits, The Geminus has the potential to be a more absorbing piece of drama.
Photo: Blue Devil Productions
The Geminus is at Tristan Bates Theatre from 12th until 17th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.