DramaLondonPhysical TheatreReview

The Wedding – Barbican, London

Creator: Amit Lahav

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Physical-theatre company Gecko give a whole new meaning to the idea of being married to your job in their new show The Wedding which arrives at the Barbican for a short run as part of the London International Mime Festival. Known for their integrative approaches to storytelling that often combines dance, movement and music, this new show has a cinematic style that draws on a wide-range of influences to tell a highly politicised tale of class, society and revolution.

Arriving by chute onto a pile of teddy bears three eager people are given a wedding dress and enjoy a symbolic marriage ceremony that leads them through a secret door. In the world beyond they are inducted into a corporate and bustling office environment where they are put to work. But new recruit Sophie (Lucia Chocarro)starts to rebel slowly bringing others to the cause as dissatisfaction spreads. When Hali a poverty-stricken refugee disguises himself as one of them and takes his place in the office, an uprising begins.

Devised by the performers working with Creator Amit Lahav, Gecko’s story begins with plenty of excitement as each new bride dances joyfully to an eclectic range of music that takes in Greek, Middle Eastern and traditional Jewish compositions. There is no gender distinction here, so both male and female newlyweds done a wedding dress, a symbol of the social contract they are about to sign, one that provides them with a comfortable but demanding existence.

At first, The Wedding focuses on what we eventually realise are the middle classes presided over by a faceless master occasionally glimpsed through a curtain feeding at a high table. Some way into the story the clown-like Hali (Chris Evans) and three family members emerge from a suitcase suggesting some kind of underclass whose poverty is entirely unnoticed. The characterisation is strong, conjuring a Machinal-like office life with its own layers of management with red-briefcases, while much of Sophie’s bid for freedom is expressed through the big flamenco-like moves that she starts to teach the group.

But the overall narrative is a little muddy with extended sequences that fail to convey what’s really happening or feel over-extended. The main narrative takes a little too long to get going, while the rousing conclusion is a quite a long danceathon celebrating the triumphalism of the moment, but, with slightly cheesy scenes of liberated workers bathing in the sunlight before slowly reforming into a seated tap and stomp routine, it starts to overstay its welcome.

While the big set-pieces tend to be the focus, and the toppling of the stilt-wearing aristocrat is excellent, along with an early party scene bathed in blue and red light as the exhausted clerks enjoy some downtime, what Gecko do so well are the finely calibrated moments where deeper emotions are conveyed. The best of these is an office worker becoming disillusioned with the mundane routine of his life, the rounds of work and home that lead to alcoholism, marital dispute and breakdown. This is brilliantly conveyed in semi-shadow by Ryen Perkins-Gangnes while the objects of his confinement swirl around him – his briefcase, his tie and a bottle. His suffocation is emotive and moving, a brief but impactful moment in a varied show.

The Wedding showcases all of Gecko’s talent for inventive storytelling, but the changes in tone and momentary losses of focus accelerate some scenes while extended others. It is occasionally confusing and are little too pat to fully convince, yet, there is no doubting the talent and creativity that make Gecko the leading exponents of physical theatre, and while this may not be an ideal marriage of styles, watching them at work is always impressive.

Reviewed 25 January 2019 | Image: Rich Rusk

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