Internationally acclaimed Ipswich based physical theatre company Gecko is currently developing their seventh touring production, The Wedding. The show is set in a dystopian world in which we are all brides, wedded to society and bound by a contract. But what are the terms of this relationship, and can we consider a divorce? Led by Artistic Director Amit Lahav, Gecko’s latest creation has been inspired by the complexities of human nature: the struggle between love and anger, creation and destruction, community and isolation.
For someone who has never seen Gecko’s work, how would you describe what the audience will see?
When you come and see a Gecko show, you sort of fall into a dream – or a nightmare, depending on your point of view! Each moment is crafted very carefully so you never know what’s going to happen next; there are always tricks and things will emerge from unexpected places. The shows are both a reflection, and a comment, on life, which can sometimes be a dark place. All the different elements are there to take the audience to another dimension, and as an invitation to re-imagine the world.
How would you define physical theatre?
Physical theatre usually involves more of a focus on movement, imagery and diversity in performance styles. We use very little text to make our work but the show is ‘written’ and ‘storyboarded’ like any other piece. For me, the main language for the audience is not words. Movement comes from the same place as language – both are emotional vehicles of communication by which the audiences understand the storyline. This is why I love working with an international ensemble of performers who can use their own languages in all of Gecko’s shows – it is movement and emotion that tell the story.
What is Gecko’s trademark style of performance?
We perform very physical, epic pieces that highlight the complexity of human nature in modern life. I have now spent fifteen years making shows and developing Gecko’s style of physicality. It’s a style that’s both athletic and emotionally honest. We use breath as the anchor for exploring all movement and emotion.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration for creating work is all around us. It’s in our personal lives, in the news, politics, and in the relationships that we have with our friends, families and colleagues. A personal emotion, reaction or situation is always the starting point for me.
My initial feelings about The Wedding came from a sense that we are bound by a contract with our state. Watching the world around me, I became aware that state dominance has slowly become more elusive and underhand, which gives us the impression that our marriage with the state is transparent and democratic, but in fact is more aggressive and controlling. Surveillance and Privacy, The Transatlantic Trade Agreement and our Human Rights are all huge areas where control and power are being carefully manipulated. These are very worrying times. Yet somehow, despite it all, I remain an optimist. I faithfully believe that through the will of the people and the power of community, we will make it through.
How do you then realise these ideas for the stage?
The process for all the shows I have made start by allowing these initial thoughts to develop into themes, scenes and characters. This can take a long time and requires patience to allow the ideas to grow, whilst constantly looking for further inspiration to inform the ideas. For this show, I studied wedding ceremonies from around the world, attempting to understand how even across languages and cultures, people join together with a supreme belief in their unity. Once the main concept has come together we start creating and designing the physical and technical elements associated with all Gecko shows. It’s not like a conventional theatre process where somebody is in a rehearsal room with a script and then they add the lights. All the various elements have to happen together, so those things are being thought about from the very first day. It’s a very collaborative process with everyone inputting and working together: director, designer, composer, performers, etc.
At what point is the show seen by an audience for the first time?
We always share a work in progress version of a new show with an audience after the first period of development. For The Wedding, we performed at Pulse Festival in June 2016 in Ipswich. This first performance can take the show on a new trajectory as I find it almost impossible to truly know a show until audiences interact with it. I’ll then take the show into a second development phase, in which the piece is re-written and re-worked.
How different will The Wedding be now to the performance at Pulse last year?
Very! Only a very few scenes, characters and visual elements from the first sharing will be in the final product. The process of making a version of the show for touring takes months of reflection and creation of a brand new storyboard and design. As a company, we will spend a lot of time creating the new version of the show. We start to reimagine the choreography, build the physical aspects and work on the technical elements in a fully equipped theatre. This process takes us right up to opening night, and further adaptations will still continue to emerge as the show begins its first tour!