Taking it to the limit

The Spring 2012 season at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. Gecko, The New Wolsey's associate theatre

The Spring 2012 season at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. Gecko, The New Wolsey's associate theatre company, present their new work Missing. - Credit: Archant

Gecko is one of the world’s leading physical theatre companies. They have been part of the Suffolk cultural landscape for the past five years. Now, as artistic director Amit Lahav tells Andrew Clarke, they plan to put Ipswich on the map

Gecko theatre company, a previous production The Overcoat.

Gecko theatre company, a previous production The Overcoat. - Credit: Richard Haughton

Gecko, one of the world’s leading physical theatre companies, has been based in Ipswich for the past five years.

Amit Lahav of Gecko at DanceEast

Amit Lahav of Gecko at DanceEast - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Artistic director Amit Lahav produces shows which are not conventional dramas but are best described as being a theatre of ideas. His latest show, Institute, examines the idea and nature of care and caring in modern society.

According to Lahav, because the company is primarily a physical theatre company and uses movement to discuss ideas and emotions, its work travels particularly well. Recent tours have taken Gecko all over the world, but since 2008 all the work has started life here in Suffolk.

Although Gecko is an associate company with the New Wolsey Theatre, Amit is also delighted to have fostered strong ties with DanceEast. Their last show, Missing, and their current show have both been developed at The Jerwood DanceHouse on the Ipswich Waterfront.

Amit has also embraced We Are Ipswich – a collaboration between DanceEast, the New Wolsey, Pulse, Gecko and the Robert Pacitti Company to support one another and promote Suffolk as a cultural centre.

“For me, We Are Ipswich is easy because we are all ready doing it. If you take Missing as an example, we were supported by the New Wolsey who commissioned us to make it and we made it here at the New Wolsey Studio and then spent a month at DanceEast rehearsing it, engaging with the staff, becoming part of the culture of the building for a whole month and that’s enormously important.”

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He said that Suffolk’s time has arrived and over the last decade the aspirations of the county, and Ipswich in particular, have really grown and are starting to be realised.

“Ipswich produces some of the best creative work that the country has to offer and it has world-class facilities. DanceEast and the New Wolsey are extraordinary venues – and I have worked all around the country – they are phenomenal, and the people who are running them are phenomenal and that’s why I am here. Brendan and Sarah have great hearts and they are doing great, great things.”

He said that by forging ever-closer links, the companies provide a wonderful advert for what modern Suffolk is all about.

“Missing is about to go to The Royal Opera House, where it is all ready sold out, then it’s touring to Romania, Russia, China, Barcelona, Malaysia, Poland, and it will probably go on to Australia and America.

“It’s going out there with not only our name on the poster, but it will also have The New Wolsey and DanceEast up there alongside us. It really is Ipswich sending world-class work out to the world where it is playing the premier spaces. We are

doing this together.”

Each show that Gecko produces is the result of extensive rehearsal and workshops. Elements are tried, shaped, refined or abandoned as Amit painstakingly puts a performance together. Each show takes about two years to create before Amit is happy to take it out on the road. Even then it will be reshaped and refined during the course of its existence as Amit takes account of audience reactions.

Institute first saw the light of day last year as part of Pulse, the New Wolsey’s fringe festival, but it would be a mistake to assume that the development process is complete.

“Being forced to put it in front of an audience at an early stage is handy – providing you are ready to be forced. If you are, then the pressure is a good thing. Certainly we were in that sort of position with Institute but we had to push ourselves incredibly hard to be technically ready.

“Strangely a Gecko work-in-progress looks very complete – it’s got lights and music, choreography and sets but that’s because I need to see it like that because it hasn’t got a script. It’s not like a script development thing. It’s visual and rhythmical and you have do it completely to discover that the finished work, at that stage, is only 5% right – but I wouldn’t know that unless it was staged properly.”

Institute has a more naturalistic setting than most Gecko shows.

“I have been researching the notion of care – that’s the broad seed idea. Everyone has an impulse to care and as soon as you talk it about everyone has a reaction to it or stories about care or family experiences, and it can embrace all sorts of situations from parents caring for children, children caring for parents. Have you cared for someone or been cared for? People looking after neighbours? The options are very open to a wide variation of interpretations.

“It has become a political tool. We are living at a time when people can be very uncared for in all sorts of ways. I am terrified by it. It’s a very punchy subject.”

But Amit is clear that the show is not all gloom and doom. “I like the fact that there is a lot of humour in it and that’s really important in something like this. You don’t it all to be unnecessarily sombre and overly earnest.”

n Gecko is performing Institute is at the Jerwood DanceHouse from May 1-3