Institute: Theatre that cares

What does it mean to care for each other? – A questions asked by the artistic director of the Gecko Theatre when they began work on their production: Institute

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Gecko Theatre – @GeckoTheatre

Gecko are a physical theatre company creating work with actors from all over the world, touring their pieces nationally and internationally. Led by Amit Lahav, artistic director, they create very visual theatre that is continually being developed throughout their tours.

On Saturday 5th March, Lucy and I were lucky enough to see Gecko’s production Institute at The Place in London’s Kings Cross. We had both been looking forward to it for a long while, as I bought the tickets for her birthday back in December, and we were not disappointed at all. When the lights came up after rapturous applause for the four actors, we looked at each other lost for words at the brilliance of the piece.

Each of the four characters: Martin, Daniel, Louis and Karl, had their own idea – not quite story – to give them drive and passion through the piece. Each idea or key characteristic became more apparent as we opened more of the cabinets creating the city-scape image of the stage. Martin was longing for a lost lover and kept opening a door to relive his failed marriage proposal; Daniel was struggling under the pressure of his own ambition and kept rewatching  happy moments in his life. Louis and Karl were more difficult to decipher: whilst Louis appeared to be ignoring an illness, Karl was grieving someone he’d lost and couldn’t bare to lose anyone else. None of the characters could get through the hardship in their lives without the support of the people around them: the message of the piece felt very clear for me despite the fact that the narrative was made up for these four basic little arcs.

Having seen this production, I have a whole new respect for physical theatre and how it can be integrated into a piece seamlessly. The actors weren’t just showing me their emotions, they were the physical manifestation of those emotions. The turmoil inside Daniel as he tried to work but feared getting anything wrong was all the more distressing due to the actor’s flailing arms and legs, reaching out at unearthly angles, making my own stomach tie up in knots. Perhaps the most impressive moments were those when all the actors were moving in sync on stage. Holding hands, the actors moved around under each other’s arms so effortlessly, as if they were floating on air. For me this highlighted the support the characters had for each other. The moments when they were happiest were when they were together as equals – moving as one.

The use of props really added to the surrealism of the piece. Using just one hand of a manikin and some incredible reactions, a whole person was brought out onto stage for the audience to imagine. Desks and chairs and curtains and telephones were all pulled out of the cabinets around the perimeter of the space like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. This all added to the slick and smooth feel of the piece as it warped from one character’s mind to another.

I could go on and on about this production. Lucy and I couldn’t stop talking on the train on the way home as we reminded each other of every exciting moment: the choral speaking, the tunnel of light, the glass box! My head is still buzzing with stimulation and inspiration – it was the sort of piece that I could watch over and over again and learn something new every time. If you want to catch Institute at The Place, you will have to be quick because it closes on Saturday 12th March. http://www.theplace.org.uk/whats-on/gecko

So “What does it mean to care?” For me, this play was about sharing in each other’s experiences because things are better when we are together.

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