The Battersea Arts Centre has a real nostalgia to it with old council chambers and rooms with mosaics covering the floors. The gem at the heart of the building? The Great Hall. A stunning, high-ceilinged room that used to be the home of community meetings and local government, and the perfect space for Gecko’s show Missing.
Missing isn’t the newest offering from Ipswich-based Gecko. The dance-theatre spectacle was performed last year as part of the London International Mime Festival to sold-out audiences so it’s great-news that it has returned for those who missed out last year.
Gecko are a physical theatre company that sit just as comfortably in mime festival as they do touring. They have an intriguing way of collaborating movement with short vignettes to create a narrative that is comprehendible whilst also playing with our perceptions of what is real. The physical ability of the performers is outstanding. Their ability to manipulate their bodies is poetic and can range from slow, graceful moves to sharp, violent explosions of movement. There is a moment when two of the performers perform a scene, then fast-forward it, re-wind it and freeze with such expert timing you would swear you are watching an old film. Use of lit frames increases this feeling and at several moments you have to remind yourself that these are real people.
The design of the show is misleadingly simple to begin with. Conveyor belts are used to create motion and fluidity within the piece but it seems like that might be it. You are lured in and then amazed when set pieces appear out of nowhere, scenes unfold before your eyes and transitions happen seamlessly which delights and unsettles in equal measure.
The show also adds atmosphere by having a constant underscore than works perfectly with the performances with is in no small part to Dave Price’s original music. Whilst the specificity of Chris Swain and company founder, Amit Lahav’s lighting design kept the show flowing and held our attention in one place whilst other scenes were built up for later.
The show’s force though, comes from its performers. On their own they each have an intense quality that is unique to their character(s), But when they come together their energy increases ten-fold and bursts right in front of us to great effect. The group scenes engulf the stage and go further. You can imagine that even from the back row you would feel the intensity of their movements.
This intensity is in no small part to the company member’s connection to each other. The show celebrates the diversity of the team, seamlessly integrating multiple languages into the show, not worrying about the audience understanding every word, because it’s not important. What is important is that the performers are so adept at their craft you understand regardless of the language, whether it was English, French, Spanish or German you, as and audience member, could understand the intent. The multi-cultural creation is a staple of Gecko’s work as they are a diverse company with members from around the world – but in this piece it is even more poignant as the story revolves around Lilly. A very proper and polite, soft spoken English woman (who could be a double for Rebecca Front), who is missing something in her life, and finding out about herself through the heritage of her Spanish Mother and English Father helps her to find what was ‘missing’ in her life.
This is a deeply heart-felt piece of physical theatre with a capital ‘P’. One that shouldn’t be missed and by a company that will be creating work for many years to come.
Missing is at the Battersea Arts Centre until the 21st March. Their current show Institute was part of this year’s LIMF and going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015.