Edinburgh Fringe 2013
In Gecko’s latest production, Lily is struggling to find her identity. Missing looks at that paradox of modern life: how we can be simultaneously part of a crowd and yet set apart. It examines how we construct identity from memories, and at how imprecise and changing these memories might be.
Lily is missing the action, losing herself as she feels her soul being eaten away from inside. Outside Lily’s life marches on regardless as she runs and stumbles to keep up, a hapless bystander in the story of her own life.
The sound of voices, children’s voices, murmurings in Spanish, a dark stage with tidy boxes lit like roadside shrines. Then a puppet child appears led along the back of the stage by two actors. A woman, Lily, is on stage watching life go by. Like scenes from memory rewound and distorted, it’s an intriguing start to Gecko’s latest show, Missing, and one which draws us into an episodic unfolding of the story. Missing is a play about how we make sense of ourselves in relation to the world and to other people, and how we construct ourselves from memory and memories from ourselves.
Scenes from Lily’s past and present are interspersed throughout the play. Initially the past is far away from Lily’s present, and gradually it comes closer and closer, impinging on her present, with the physical elements of the set mirroring this. Gecko takes us through Lily meeting her partner, getting married and then things falling apart as Lily re-enacts unresolved parts of her past. As Lily struggles to find her identity, the memory of her parents’ relationship takes centre stage, and Lily is forced to confront and re-evaluate herself.
Artistic director, Amit Lahav, is concerned with the idea of a visible soul, and that if you try to suppress your true identity a part of you begins to die. Appropriately to this theme, Missing has strong religious overtones – the boxes like roadside shrines, another box to stage left like a confessional, a mysterious Italian priest who acts like father confessor to Lily’s soul.
Missing succeeds in combining physical theatre, strong acting, design and technical elements into a united whole where no one element overshadows the other, and each serves the overall effect. It is beautifully designed by Rhys Jarman and Amit Lahav: geographically mapping out the stage into distinct areas where different pieces of the action, gradually change and move together to mirror the story. Technically this is a highly accomplished show – onstage treadmills, light boxes and a wonderfully designed almost minimalist set from which boxes pop up in magical profusion. They all combine to add to the effect without distracting from the narrative.
It’s a wonderfully physical show, both in stylised movements from the actors where their bodies express more than their words, and in some beautifully choreographed dance scenes. This is enhanced by lit screens with blurry edges creating short snapshots of moments in time like old sepia photographs. The cast put in a fine ensemble performance, with Georgia Roberts as Lily convincingly disconcertingly uncomfortable and disturbed.
Respira, respira, the dark Italian priest tells Lily. The trick is to keep breathing – sometimes that’s all you can do.