Camden Fringe 2023
I rather like the new mini-flyers I’ve seen around of late. Half A5 in size, they feel refreshingly concise as they encourage companies to keep their pitches short and to the point. But of course, it’s all still just marketing in the end. You’ll have gathered from the star rating above that I didn’t find Terry Geo’s solo show Blink to be “astounding” or “raw and emotional” and it certainly didn’t have me “laughing, cheering and reaching for the tissues”.
The story is not without potential. A young gay man called Jake yearns for romance but is disappointed by shallow male promiscuity. Many people will be able to identify with this, which I suppose begs the question: if most of us are after meaningful relationships, why is the prevailing majority still only interested in casual hook-ups? Jake is a sort of actor/musician who at some point (the timelines are unclear) accidentally auditions for a TV talent show which he wins, affording him immediate success and fame, which he treats disdainfully. His loneliness is resolved in a similarly magical happenstance when a gorgeous African hunk in a nightclub takes a liking to him, for no apparent reason. All seems set fair for lucky Jake and his hot random boyfriend-then-fiancé-then-husband Akida.
There’s no reason this couldn’t be funny and/or dramatic, but I’m sorry to have to report that Geo is lacking in some very basic skills. To start with, he delivers his lines over the heads of the audience to the back wall. This is Solo Performance 101: you have the opportunity to engage directly with the audience with no fourth wall in your way, but you won’t forge any sort of connection if you’re directing your performance towards the air-con machine.
Every physical movement mentioned is laboriously mimed out as if we have no visual imaginations, and the performance of a very mediocre script is pitifully devoid of charm or charisma. My companion was surprised that a director is credited (Paul T. Davies), as it feels like a piece that has had no critical input from an outside eye. It has all the hallmarks of a first draft by a first-time writer whose friends have told him he’s brilliant because they love him.
It’s not enough to wink at clichés and expect a belly laugh, or to relate tragic events and hope to be rewarded with a medal for profundity. When the show veers into the darkness of Akida’s brutal treatment in his native Kenya, his HIV status and the homophobic violence laid out at the story’s conclusion, these things come across as a list of dramatic beats that simply haven’t been inhabited with any creative life. Furthermore, Geo concludes the show attempting to maintain that this is a true story. I think this is unlikely, which made it feel pretty tasteless.
I was going to say the show avoids a single-star rating because at least he shows up and remembers his lines, but actually he stumbles over a lot of them, so I guess I’m just reluctant to kick a show when it’s down. The most encouraging thing I can say is that if Geo wants to continue with this project he urgently needs to work with collaborators to evolve the script into something more original, insightful and truthful. And for goodness’ sake start looking your audience in the eye!
I should mention an appearance at the end from a representative of Positive East, whose comments on the continued need for HIV testing were the most interesting and heartfelt of the evening.
Written by: Terry Geo
Directed by: Paul T. Davies
Blink plays at Etcetera Theatre until 20 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.