See enough Fringe theatre, and you wonder if every other show takes this format: a play of dreamy recollection gets a sparse staging, is enthusiastically performed by a young cast, and underscored by mournful music. Stage By Stage’s presentation of Oliver Emanuel’s Gemini: A Dream Play fits this bill, but it stands out simply because it is really good.
Emanuel’s script is like hearing a DH Lawrence heroine recount a prolonged dream. The monologue is split between twin sisters, dressed identically save for their pink and blue T-shirts. Are they two halves of the same soul? Very Gemini.
More enacted poetry than play, Gemini’s dramatic peaks and troughs come from emotional rather than narrative variation.
Such story as there is centres on a girl’s unrequited love for a one-eyed sailor, soon to set sail, emotionally shy, that kind of thing. Whilst Blue recounts her grown-up Alice in Wonderland party dream, with hunchbacks, and lovely frocks, Pink stays back, worrying and warning. Then it is Blue’s turn to get her emotional hands dirty, taking long walks with her sailor, helped by Pink’s constant stream of advice on deportment and demeanour. It is episodic, but never fragmented, and simply honestly poetic.
Serendipitously, it is the anniversary of the Russian submarine Kursk’s tragic sinking. No large imaginative leap is required for the twins’ one-eyed sailor - yes, he dies at sea - to be Russian, and Emanuel’s constant watery imagery of rivers, waves and women’s tears contributes. Add George Rodosthenous’s fine Shostakovichian score for violin and viola, and Gemini becomes pretty much a requiem for the loves the Russian sailors left behind.
Victoria Glass and Claire Davies, as sisters Blue and Pink respectively, are wonderful. Glass’s polished reservation is offset by Davies’s earthier passion: complementary halves of a whole larger than human. Walking that fine line between playing and mourning for their subject matter’s connotations, their performances dwell in that moment before welling tears spill over. Think even one dry eye walked out the theatre?
Until 18 August