Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Gecko theatre company’s latest physical theatre show takes you to another world where all is not right – it’s quirky, provoking, idiosyncratic and spellbinding.
Gecko is a company that produces devised physical theatre with much acclaim. This is the sixth such creation from Gecko in ten years and it doesn’t disappoint. Gecko shows have a reputation for creating new worlds or environments and focusing on the banalities and idiosyncracies of life and the inhabitants through physical acting. This may sound normal but Gecko’s research and knack for creative expression goes deep into the psychology of the situations people are in and further into abstract ideas provoking thought and reflection. Therefore, a Gecko show always has unexpected twists.
The huge Grand theatre at the Pleasance Courtyard is full and the large stage area is set with an absurdist looking set of very tall metallic filing cabinets on three sides of the skewed rectangular stage with a slightly raised platform. The four male actors in this piece arrive and leave in ones, twos and threes going about their daily business. It’s not clear exactly what their daily business is, but it is certainly about bureaucracy, and hierarchy at first. Who is in charge? Who is the boss? All of the actors wear suits in varying shades of grey and carry brief cases so it’s not clear if anyone is in charge – but an offstage voice from another office is intriguing as the office worker from the prior scene seems to take charge in the next.
There are shades of big brother here but as the play continues, there is a curious balance and poignancy as the hierarchy adjusts – and then adjusts again, messing with our minds. That’s exactly what the international team of Creator Amit Lahav and performers Chris Evans, François Testory, Ryen Perkins-Gangnes and Amit Lahav want to achieve as they set out to create a new piece about caring and who cares for who – and who we can rely on in our lives – given how disassociated we have become from each other. This non obvious way to introduce their theme is one of the complexities and provocative pleasures of Gecko’s theatre – the ideas and story eke out and draw the audience in even more.
The cast of four are accomplished physical performers – both dancers and actors, sometimes slide into fascinating beautifully choreographed abstract movement motifs that are part of their character, showing their fascinating character’s true inner thoughts – which push the scene and story forward in a way that words cannot. The undercurrent is of reverie and anguish at the same time. Much of this show is silent and visual, supported with sound or dynamic unpredictable music, and the few short pieces of dialogue are in English, French, German and Spanish – however, the emotion and intensity of the compelling actors often project physically what they are saying, so the words are almost symbolic. The multilingual aspect of the cast is intriguing because it separates each quirky character as an individual, yet it unites them as a common whole seeking to care for each other, albeit with unusual means.
The characters undergo treatments to rid themselves of their mismatched reliances and fears. In this unusual world, memories are stashed in the tall filing cabinets – when dog eared manilla files are opened they are not full of written pages, but insinuated video – genius! The darkly lit set itself houses foibles and secrets of its own, tiny office suites and a restaurant slide out of filing cabinets for ‘blink of an eye’ set changes and extremely clever set design.
The last scenes are brilliant and it would give too much away to describe them. Suffice it to say, we are left thinking and reflecting having been entertained and transported to another place and time, which are the signs of good theatre. Gecko’s creation succeeds in building a dynamic emotional arc to the last minute. Institute is a mesmerizing and transporting, innovative piece of physical theatre.