In the darkness the sounds of a baby crying, then children playing, circle the auditorium until an industrial green light flashes, heralding the arrival of something. The final section of a large metallic pipe can be glimpsed to one side of the stage. As the circling sound stops, something drops through the adult-sized birth canal, a man dressed only in white underwear. His fall is broken by a huge pile of stuffed Teddy bears. As he stands, a German woman in a crisp outfit offers him a wedding dress to wear, which he gleefully accepts, dancing with powerful eroticism.
The opening images of Gecko’s new physical theatre piece set the tone for the whole show. The Wedding is a vivid kaleidoscope of dance, languages, soundscapes, movement and songs, an ever-changing barrage on the senses that seems to somehow, remarkably embody the feeling of being in the world in 2017.
Amit Lahav’s new work uses his established devising technique, which means the performers are all contributors to the piece. They are described as “an expanding ensemble of international players” and everyone is brilliant. There are many different languages spoken and part-spoken in the piece with the effect that they blur into one another. They become a kind of universal vocabulary, culminating in one song that all the performers stomp and sing at the end of the show.
Whilst the choreography and movement is excellent, just as much emphasis is placed on sonic development. Jonathan Everett’s sound is not only layered and deeply evocative, it moves with precision around the auditorium creating a rich immersive environment that leaves the audience vividly at the centre of the action. Joe Hornsby’s lighting is wonderful, unafraid to be stark and simple but equally capable of being imaginative and fanciful, heightening every scene perfectly.
The Wedding explores the relationship we all have to society, a relationship in which we are all brides, testing to see if married life suits us and wondering if divorce might possible if it doesn’t. The movement sequences explore the plight of refugees, the monotony of office life, the frenzy of the international trading markets and our attempts at different forms of relationships. The tone and tempo of each piece is different and Lahav’s expertise is in orchestrating all of the parts into a powerful symphony of contemporary life. It’s like a year worth of global reporting low lights from Newsnight danced to a soundscape of hope and despair in equal measures.
The execution of the sequences is wonderful, sometimes beautiful, sometimes heart-breaking, always intriguing and unpredictable. Their content is occasionally a little obvious and trite, for example all the refugees are loveable and subjugated and all the commodity traders are angry and frenzied.
There is also a debt of influence to Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man – A Hollywood Fable. But The Wedding none the less offers its own remarkable, mesmerising take on the world we live in, full of horror and hope, fortitude and fear, love and lamentation and is an amazing achievement.
Touring nationally until 7th October
Words by Stephen M Hornby