The Wedding – Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry

Devisers: Amit Lahav and the company

Music: Dave Price

Associate Director: Rich Rusk

Reviewer: G. D. Mills

The critically acclaimed physical theatre company Gecko delivers a new, compelling production in which director Amit Lahav explores what it means to be “a bride, wedded to society”.

But Lahav means marriage in the broadest sense, inviting us to consider the “social contract we all have with the state, the agreement in its simplest form that says you will be protected in return for taxes and loyalty. What if you start feeling, as I have, that you are in a forced marriage and the terms of the contract – potential changes to human rights; surveillance – are shifting beneath your feet, what can you do?”

It is possible to read a straightforward narrative in Lahav’s powerful and evocative piece, but at the same time there is an abstract quality which enables the individual to weave their own story into the warp and weft of its fabric.

The production begins when a number of performers arrive on stage via a flume, in natal fashion, screaming with elation and clutching teddy bears. This moment betokens their arrival in society, at which point they are garbed in a traditional white wedding dress (regardless of gender) and ushered over the threshold towards a tribal ceremony. Thus begins their connubial contract: so far so good.

Things begin to wear thin, however, when their allocated rôle starts to take on the quality of drudgery and servitude. The performers are squashed into their tiny work booths and forced to comply to the diktats of the Higher Beings, who take on a hellishly animalistic form. Misery grows like cancer. Certain individuals begin to resist the constraints imposed upon them. This resistance movement gathers apace, authority is toppled, and a new society, one which celebrates rather than oppresses the individual, begins to emerge.

This, at least, is one interpretation of this work which, as Lahav explains, will evolve organically over time. This production may well be very different five months down the line.

In the current version, a gatekeeper, charged with ascribing suitable attire to each new arrival, skitters and kowtows her abject adoration when the fallopian tube delivers one of the Higher Beings into her lowly universe. On the fringes of this dystopian society are the family of illegal immigrants who emerge, one tentative limb at a time, from a travel bag. Broken and begotten, they malinger on the periphery, subsisting on busked earnings brought in by the son’s absurd, lampooning street dances.

Meanwhile, trapped on the inside, the society man finds himself literally running from the trappings of his conformity: a suitcase, tie and phone float around him, seeking to adhere themselves to his writhing figure as he swerves and swoops to evade them. By the end, the performers have shed their urban uniform and look more like agrarian workers, or revolutionary fighters.

The show is delivered by nine young dancers – sinewy and sensuous, fresh and ever-fluid, they deliver something that is mesmerizing to watch. Their shared language, Esperanto, a mish-mash of European languages, is both gobbledygook and recognisable and carries with it its own urgent musicality. The actual music, meanwhile, composed by Dave Price, absorbs the styles of many countries to create a shifting cultural landscape.

There is a sense that the performance is so self-sufficient that we, the audience, are an irrelevance, and on may long for the fourth wall to be broken. There was a gesture of this kind, albeit an ambiguous one, in the final moments. The performers move in sync, sit facing the audience, and beat out complex rhythms which grow in intensity and volume – an irresistible call to unite.

The Wedding, already a formidable entity, stands to evolve into something even greater. Artistic Director Amit Lahav surely has more accolades coming his way.

Runs until 6 May 2017 | Image: Contributed

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Powerful and compelling

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

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