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FringeReview UK 2023

Low Down

Kin is simply – beautifully haunting – What a way to reopen our new contemporary theatre space at the Brighton Dome’s Corn Exchange Theatre. Brighton has been crying out for more experimental physical theatre for some time now, so what a way to kick off our theatre reopening than a visit from Gecko – and more than just a visit it was! So much so, I went to watch Kin on two separate occasions! There are not enough words to explain the sheer impact of this company on modern day theatre, their process, their drive, their imparted technique/knowledge shared with our younger generation and the gift of story-telling through the driven metaphor; as opposed to the emphasis of words. Emotion is key – and the emotion you will feel through every individual involved in the making of Kin. That’s what makes this performance special, four years in the making and every detail is beautifully poignant. And who is steering this ship? The incredibly talented Amit Lahav.

Gecko lead the way for emotive physical theatre that pierces your heart and confronts your senses; so much of what we witness in the world is sadly history repeating itself right here on the stage before us. Sitting in your chair, you will feel the displacement the characters suffer, reflecting on the convoluted stories Gecko cast members choose to explore – leaving a visceral imprint of the pain and suffering of each individual and family venturing into a journey of migration. Human to human, you will leave shaken and in awe of this company.

Gecko deserve every success as Kin graces The National Theatre in January 2024; a defining yet long overdue moment for Gecko and their incredible visionary Amit Lahav.



Walking into the theatre, a sparse darkened stage lies before us, soon to be lit by Amit Lahav. The show begins with an uplifting tone, as the audience is transported into a joyous whirlwind of merriment, a party amongst the Officers. The singing is infectious and true to Gecko’s style; we’re entertained with a vivid celebratory dance! This formation is demonstrating unity and camaraderie, which is created by a fast paced chain using the actors’ bodies, drawing influences from Balkan dances and melody: “la – di– di– di– di –la– di– di– di– dah.” What you appreciate from the on-set is the subtlety in Lahav’s directing, as one gentleman appears to fall over during this heightened celebration, breaking from the ‘chain’, jolting his body in quick succession –  a soon to be moment that is repeated later on in the show to illustrate the pressure of ‘becoming’ a militant role and the horrors that come with this identity imposed upon many by parental and societal pressures. It appears, what we now know to be – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, without little consoling all the Officers ensure this man is propped up and forced back into reality. It’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself: as young adults and sometimes children are forced into inflicting pain on others, whilst trying to digest the repercussions of what their actions mean for society and humanity.

This talented cast dive straight in to a story of migration, family, genocide and – hope. Where would we be without hope right? As the audience remain optimistic that each family will make it, where ever that destination of safety will finally become tangible for them. Your eyes cannot divert away from Vanessa Guevara Flores who sets the scene, for what will become a woman’s fight to survive, to prove – and –  to continue. That woman being Leah – Leah’s story being key to the narrative here, as Lahav carefully uses ideas and details from his own Grandmother’s journey from Yemen to Palestine in 1932, where she had to flee to escape persecution. As Leah shows her papers, what is clear is her identity isn’t accepted and that she must instantly be segregated from others – how? By a yellow painted line slowly pressed on to her back. How Guevara Flores effortlessly communicates the pain of each drop of paint has you on edge from the very start – simply harrowing. The visual imagery of this will stay with me forever, as she breathes through each curve, cultivating her body into excruciating agony– and with all of Gecko’s imagery it’s the visual metaphor of what this action means for her: her heritage, her children, her home and all she once knew – now having to be oppressed.

What stands so memorably, is the voices that greet Leah next, dishevelled puppets that seem almost ghost like, spirits of different wars, sharing segments of their stories of migration, loss and the unknown. All the cast appeared in black gauze as if in mourning and the verbatim of this moment leaves nothing but silence, as it’s the only moment the understanding of the words were really marked here, one character being Frank – As Frank (a previous Holocaust survivor) stated, “I, I, I… I had nothing.” It appears what haunts Leah here, also gives her the courage to fight on, making her way back to her family; as the puppets revisit her later in the performance.

One cannot see a Gecko show and not be in complete admiration for the thought and inventiveness of the sound, lighting and props. As a Gecko fan I am always completely blown away by the innovation of lighting and how this is used to communicate emotion on stage – we now see many theatre company’s taking suit, as they experiment with unusual methods of creating lighting on stage. Chris Swain takes risks here, from intense strobe lighting in support of mechanical rhythms of the cast members to the simplistic lighting of each lamp, each hidden corner. And not forgetting the talented Mark Melville’s underscore – all artists on this production evoke beautiful heightened emotion, which was particularly seen when both travelling families would thrust into their imagined ‘home’ and depart again, to emphasise the passing of time and migration of new people occupying a previously lived in building. This was a devastating moment, as both families tried to inhabit the same space whilst experiencing severe trauma, through careful breath placement and sustained slow paced movement sequences supported by the emotive sound and atmospheric lighting choices.

A harrowing moment for me was the separation of the Karina family, as Saju Hari plays the father of this family. The father is separated from the family, in an attempt to talk to some Officers. However, what proceeds is an uncomfortable cruel prank, as the Officers lead him into thinking he is ‘welcome’ but instead places a napkin across the table that is covered in white powder, the imagery of the father painting his face white and replacing his turban with a flat cap was extremely uncomfortable, as he begins to wave goodbye to his culture and ethnicity without even knowing; only when his turban is snatched away. This representation in the cast, and action was directed and performed with great juxtaposition as Hari acts blissfully unaware that the event has just proceeded as he tries to talk kindly to the fellow Officers, “Cheers.” This one action later has disastrous consequences when one family member refuses to dress and present themselves as anything other than their authentic self. The repetition of self-sacrifice is unsettling to watch.

In true Gecko style, the sound is of multi languages throughout, which gives representation and a clear message that migration has happened all over the world, across different decades and within our present day. The inaudible broken language of multiple parts of the words also allows the audience to read different interpretations of the work that also unifies the audience at the same time. Geckos use of ensemble, breath work and innovative design elements always has taken significance over the dialogue, which just works beautifully. Yes, in parts the sound is inaudible, but the tone and emotion behind the words is never lost. The narrative looks at different families, different battles – but also highlights what connects them – hope, humour and a will to stay connected – to survive another day. This message resonates with us throughout, as humanity must prevail. Thank you Gecko for bringing this message and performance to Brighton – how this theatre company amalgamates ones flight or fight internal state and the complexities of raw human emotion is truly unique. An experience not to be forgotten.