DramaReviewSouth West

The Wedding – Bristol Old Vic

Creator: Amit Lahav and the company

Associate Director: Rich Rusk

Original Music: Dave Price

Reviewer: Hugh McCann

The Wedding begins with a handful of characters being ejected from the end of a tubular slide into an enormous pile of teddy bears. The characters are met by a midwife-like figure who dresses them for marriage and leads them on to join the rest of this world’s population, living in a frenzied cycle of cubicle clad office work and communal celebration (in which the wedding wear is adorned once more). In the background, atop a large arch, a faceless leader presides over the denizen of this world, as they rush about in their uniform attire. This is all done with the rich and immersive lighting and sound design typical of Gecko. The analogy is clear enough; we are unwittingly born into a world where we are only allowed to participate in the rituals and duties of everyday life, as long as we make an oath of loyalty to the state: a wedding of sorts.

What Gecko does, however, is take this microcosm of society and make it feel totally alien. A huge way this is achieved is the use of a variety of languages, rarely English. As an audience (assuming we are not fluent in these languages) we therefore only hear the feelings behind the words, but not the words themselves. It becomes a silhouette of a story, in which action is divorced from reason. It feels like a story told primarily through verbs. We as an audience are left trying to decipher the organizing principles behind this world of constant toil. At times, it seems that the light and sound are guiding the characters about, or the mysterious leader, and occasionally we see moments of autonomy, for example when one worker makes a heartfelt plea for divorce.

This desperate searching for order in chaos is also ubiquitous in the real world today, but instead offering answers, Gecko asks us to meditate on the really big questions; collectivism vs individualism, stoicism vs hedonism, government vs anarchy, transcending political issues. What they don’t do is pretend to know the answers. The first half of the show seems to be primarily focused upon issues of philosophy.

This changes, however, with the arrival of four new characters, not dressed like the others, not arriving from the slide, but instead from a suitcase at the corner of the stage. Their attire and the music accompanying their arrival suggest they are of Middle-Eastern origin. They not only differ to the suits in origin but in their relationship with us, the audience, with whom they acknowledge and talk to. They dance and perform magic tricks for us, asking for money. Suddenly this is the real world, today, the economic migrant humiliated and hungry, looking for somewhere to belong. What follows is a darkly comic attempt by one of these new arrivals to join in with the suits. The piece now changes gear from the philosophical to the political, and metaphor gives way to a very real depiction of inequality in the western world. This gear change initially feels a little jarring, breaking our trust with the piece, taking us out of our removed and contemplative state and reminding us of our accountability for real life issues right now.

The piece ends with the suits realising the cruelty of their world and overthrowing the faceless leader, welcoming those from the suitcase into their community. It’s a fairytale ending which takes the piece back out of our world and into the allegorical. The piece is like a series of cave paintings, in which a handful of images look remarkably our world today, giving us a glimpse of what could be.

The Wedding is a powerful provocation and brings together the philosophical and the political masterfully.

Touring Nationwide | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Searching & Hopeful

Show More
Photo of The Reviews Hub - South West

The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

Related Articles

Back to top button
The Reviews Hub