Next week we welcome critically acclaimed physical dance theatre company Gecko back with open arms. Their new production, Institute, is an intimate, funny and revealing exploration of care arriving at Warwick Arts Centre Tue 13 – Thu 15 May 2014 7.30pm.
The following interview with Amit Lahav, Artistic Director of Gecko and director of Institute, delves into the ins and outs of what makes Gecko tick.
Who are ‘Gecko’ and what do you do?
We make theatre that is visual, visceral and ambitious, and we always aim to create world class work that inspires, moves and entertains our audiences. Gecko was founded in 2001, and is now an award winning and internationally acclaimed company. With our expanding ensemble of international performers and makers, we create work through collaboration, experimentation and play. We have taken part in theatre and dance festivals all over the world from Bogota to Beijing, and we have performed extensively across the UK on the national touring network.
What is your trademark style of performance?
We perform very physical, epic pieces, which highlight the complexity of human nature. I have now spent 12 years making work, developing a style of exploring and physicality on stage. This style is very athletic and honestly emotional. We use the breath as an anchor for all exploration.
How would you define physical theatre?
Physical theatre usually involves more of a focus on movement, imagery and diversity in performance styles. We use very little text to make our work but the piece is ‘written’ and ‘storyboarded’ like any other piece – we just use different visual styles to explore our themes and characters in the rehearsal room. For us, it’s about using whatever tools we have as performers, designers and writers to bring these powerful moments to life. In the modern industry; movement, puppetry, imagery is incorporated into work across the board. The RSC regularly uses ‘physical theatre’ – perhaps the term is becoming less and less important. Maybe we are all just making theatre to the best of our unique individual ability?
Why is experimenting with different types of theatre important for so many actors today? And what makes it different to traditional types of theatre?
For a performer experimentation, making discoveries, finding out what excites or means something to you and experiencing and engaging in different types of theatre, will broaden your theatre practice vocabulary and creative possibilities. This can give performers a sense of ownership of both their practice and creating ideas, which contributes to collaboration and an organic process of making a show.
The difference to more traditional types theatre might be a synthesis of multidisciplinary forms and a collaborative/ensemble process between actors, writer’s directors and production team.
What is your relationship with physical theatre and when did it first interest you?
All I know is the theatre that I make, I don’t have any other way of expressing myself – the fact that it happens to be globally called physical theatre never really crosses my mind. I suppose one way I could express this is to say that I am committed to finding ways to engage people imaginatively without the use of text – this means that all ideas I have pass through the lens of Gecko theatre, which happens to be called physical theatre.
Do you think that physical theatre is still seen as a serious art form?
Of course. Physical theatre and dance are as valid as any other form of expression. For us, they are the only way to make work. It is essential that the artistic community continues to redefine the boundaries of performance as we compete with YouTube and TV and a world of instantaneous, quick-fix entertainment.
How is physical theatre received by UK audiences today?
Our audiences across the world are always very intelligent, open-minded people who are seeking entertainment and want to see something special. Physical theatre is extremely popular in the UK, other companies like Frantic Assembly, DV8 and Complicite are also hugely successful all over the world. We all use our own forms of ‘physical theatre’, we are very different companies but that is advantageous for audiences, the variety of entertainment is important. We want to be part of a diverse theatrical community.