17th October, York Theatre Royal
After an international tour and a run at the wonderful Battersea Arts Centre during which their set was destroyed by a fire and incredibly rebuilt in just eight days, York has the privilege of hosting physical theatre company Gecko’s Missing. Despite, or perhaps precisely because of, the rich life this production has already had, it is brimming with all the energy and electricity of a show on opening night.
Loosely, Missing takes the audience on a journey into the psyche of Lily (played by Katie Lusby), a woman who has all the things we are told to want – a successful career, friends, a husband – but finds that something is still missing. Through an incredible spectacle of movement, sound, memory and even puppetry, we are witness to her experience of reconnecting with her roots and reshaping her own identity.
From the very start Missing crackles with emotion. We are thrown into Lily’s fast–paced world with a flurry of perfectly executed choreography that’s fluid one second but sharp and angular the next; painting a picture of a life that’s all smiles on the surface but disturbed underneath. The performers breathe, shout and whisper in time with their movements while music and multilingual recorded sound create a vibrant soundscape.
There are a host of visually stunning moments, from a chaotic work environment created with swirling lit screens and coffee cups, to the hazy screens held in front of performers to create a window into Lily’s memories. A more evocative portrayal of memory on stage I have never seen; Lily remembers impressions of events as the screens hover on hands, legs and clothing. Voices are loud and confused, with snippets of coherence. The emotion attached to a memory permeates every aspect of it as it replays and rewinds before our eyes.
Each performer in the small company of five is perfectly cast and masterful in their performance. Lusby portrays a palpable sense of quiet desperation as Lily; Gecko’s creative director Amit Lahav is mesmerising as a charming but mystical drifter, whispering sweetly in Italian as he draws Lily out of herself; Lucia Chocarro is the embodiment of feminine passion and cool allure as Lily’s Spanish mother.
The immense skill behind how they manipulate their bodies is almost easy to overlook because it appears so natural. In one striking memory Chocarro twists herself back and forth as the scene rewinds itself, to incredible effect. At times they flit from one emotion to another, one movement to another, in perfect time with striking sounds. They perform from beginning to end with a frenetic energy that is difficult to look away from, creating a visual landscape that is both dreamlike and acutely relatable.
Physical theatre is the reason I fell in love (sop alert, sorry about it) with theatre, because I think it has limitless potential for creativity. In Missing, Gecko have proved this and then some. By combining movement, sound, storytelling and visual art they have created a piece which is deeply emotive in a way that transcends language. It beautifully captures the visceral power of childhood memories and their lasting impact on the way we relate to ourselves.
If you don’t trust me, take it from DanMan – he, who has been with me for 90% of all the theatre I have seen over the past six years, turned to me at the end and said ‘that was the best thing I have ever seen’. I could go on for a very long time about the incredible amount of detail that has gone into this production, but if I were to list every highlight I would end up writing a play by play of every moment of this thoroughly enchanting piece. So the only alternative I have is to implore you: go and see this show.