Review: Gecko - Missing - at The Place
Reviewed: 2 May
The dance world has seen it’s fair share of frenetically paced, cleverly staged physical theatre lately; from Lost Dog to Jasmin Vardimon, it’s an approach popular with audiences and artists alike. With their latest work Missing, Amit Lahav’s company Gecko have really raised the bar. It tells the tale of Lily, a woman whose soul is decaying, with startling theatrical ingenuity. It’s a riot of visual invention, featuring projections, puppets and atmospheric lighting. Great use was made of conveyor belt-style sections that transported performers, sometimes whole scenes, across the stage and showed the relentless pace of Lily’s life. A filmic montage of her life was flipped through, a cycle of office-nightclub-meeting-bar with key events – her first encounter with her future husband, their wedding day – worked in with super-slick transitions and precise timing.
Through this whirlwind, cracks emerged; Lily kept moving into a grotesque flamenco as if possessed, and her marriage was misfiring; both parties driven into paroxysms of anguish that cosy evenings watching mindless TV couldn’t quite dull. Ryan Perkins-Gagnes was memorable here as the seemingly adoring husband bent and twisted with private pain, while loud bursts of sharp, prickly static perfectly captured two people irritating the hell out of each other.
The cast of multi-skilled, multi-lingual performers were uniformly excellent. As Lily, Georgina Roberts went a long way to making the piece, and Lily’s plight believable. Her hollow despair and bewilderment were poignantly rendered amidst the chaotic images of her life and relationships. David Bartholomew was effective but underdeveloped as the mysterious, priest-like doctor figure trying to help mend her soul.
Told in fragmented flashback, the build up and breakdown of Lily’s parents’ relationship provided some of the best moments of the work, both in terms of performance and staging. Anna Finkel was sinuously expressive as Lily’s flamenco dancer mother and Chris Evans moved seamlessly between explosive movement and more straightforward acting. As their relationship faltered, strings of lightening appeared to ignite between them, fights were rewound and repeated, and they dropped in and out of electrifying slow motion around a crowded table.
The fantastic visuals kept coming; luminous office accessories – coffee cup, laptop, phone – followed Lilly around as she tried to navigate her way through a soulless corporate existence. Even more effective were the frames that encased memories of Lily’s childhood. Fuzzy around the edges and steeped in sepia lighting, they flipped from portrait to landscape as they followed the action. A puppet featured as a stand-in for the young Lilly, which was manoeuvred with creepily lifelike efficiency.
Yet with the sheer amount going on, we were dangerously close to being simply overwhelmed by it all. The unrelenting pace left little time or space for the audience to make the connections in the disjointed narrative, while the ending, with its sense of redemption as Lily inhaled her soul back into her body, was almost jarringly straightforward. Some strands were left frustratingly underdeveloped, and Lily’s story was more or less abandoned in favour of flashbacks to the past. These were beautifully done, but I wasn’t entirely convinced they held the key to repairing Lily’s soul. Ultimately though, story was secondary to spectacle here. And when theatre is this visually inventive, this disorientatingly immersive, it really is hard to resist.
Catch Gecko on tour in Manchester (9 -12 May) & Plymouth (24 & 26 May)
Misa Brzezicki took part in this year’s Resolution! Review – The Place’s online magazine which includes reviews of every Resolution! show, by professional dance critics and aspiring writers.
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