Geordie Johnson in "The Two-Headed Man"


Geordie Johnson in "The Two-Headed Man," by Kathy B.

A relatively brief, slightly-biased review (of sorts)

This year Mr. Johnson appeared in "The Two-Headed Man," part of the Spoken Art series for the Canadian Bravo cable network. It's based on the short story by Barbara Gowdy. If you haven't seen it, see it! Borrow it or order it, but it's a "must-see." (Caution: contains very strong language.)

It doesn't matter what you've seen of his TV work before. This has got to be, without a doubt, some of his very finest television work to date. Gemini-worthy stuff. Truly. (Factoid: Geminis are the Canuck version of Emmys.)

First, he looks like hell. Now wait, wait. That's a good thing! Really! It puts your attention on his performance (for what may the first time for you) in what is a very compelling, provocative dramatic piece.

Basically, it's monologues of 2 different characters woven together (both monologues AND characters). Mr. Johnson plays Samuel, a man gradually overcome by his own self-righteousness, bitterness, isolation, and paranoia. Nicholas Campbell plays Simon, his conjoined brother: a spiteful, mean-spirited kind of character who can't seem to decide if he wants to be a villain all the time or just most of the time (perhaps to get even with everyone else for his own state of being). Simon has no body and, by that, I don't mean he's alone. I mean that, thanks to some post-production blue-screen special effects, Nicholas Campbell's head (scaled down in size) is attached to Geordie Johnson's left shoulder. BTW, for you language mavens out there, it is Mr. Campbell who gets all the "blue" lines, as well.

Each character tells his own story--his own perception of the events of their lives together--to the camera. Samuel (follow this carefully now) has finally taken a saw to remove Simon's head from Samuel's body. When we see Samuel, he is recovering in a hospital bed. Simon tells his side in retrospect.

To appreciate the difficulty of such a work, you must know that these actors never perform together and there are no other characters to give them anything to react to or to work with. Each actor (with the help of the director, of course) must fully realize the character he plays, the characters he talks about, and the character he is talking to all on his own. And since Samuel is seen mostly head to chest in a hospital bed, and Simon has no body at all, there are virtually no physical gestures to aid them. All feelings, thoughts, emotions, etc. of Samuel and Simon must come from the actors' faces and voices. A very confined space in which to work.

And they are both marvelous. Of course, my personal opinion is that Mr. Johnson is particularly outstanding (but you should have known I'd say that before you read this far).

His performance is colored with a beautifully broad spectrum of the human condition, including anger, righteousness, pain, fear, sorrow, regret, helplessness and indignation. And each of his monologues plays like a symphony. Monologues can be deadly tedious, especially long ones. But the variety and pacing Mr. Johnson uses truly show off yet another reason why he is one of Canada's acting elite.

If all you've noticed of Mr. Johnson up to this point is that he's a babe, then you're missing out. And if you've noticed he's a good actor, you're getting warm. Once you see "The Two-Headed Man," you may come away with a new insight:

This man is an artist.

-Kathy B. (kaetheb@aol.com)


Stratford '98 / Lucard's Home Page / lpetix@dpcc.com