Review: Missing. Gecko. Nottingham Playhouse 29th to 31st Jan 2019

Missing, by Gecko Theatre, is a tumbling, writhing cacophony of images and movement, pierced through with light and colour, all of which leads us through a landscape of memory and remembrance. The narrative is ephemeral and open to interpretation. The unfolding of the tale lies in the snapshots of a remembered childhood. The pulse of dance and sound creates a hypnotic magnetism which immerses the audience in the memoir.

Kate Lusby, as Lily, drifts through the usual life stages, work, socialising, marriage. This all presented with deft lightness of foot and incredible energy on a moving conveyor belt, the inevitability of passing time, the people who drift in and out of one’s life. The marriage becomes claustrophobic: a whole dance sequence takes place on a small, cramped sofa, where the relationship can be seen as intimate, all absorbing, stultifying and finally smothering. The crossing of a leg or a gesture speaking a thousand words, the domestic everyday details stripped bare. Magnetically pulled together and repelled apart, the breakdown forces her to question who she is.

With the help of a mysterious, outside figure, Lily revisits her memories. Fractured through a jigsaw of imagery, overlaid with snippets of conversation and music, the past is glimpsed. Her parents’ meeting – a story told and remembered, with comic elements and charm. Her parents at home – sniping over the dinner table, where tensions rise and the undercurrent of resentment is physically disabling and accompanied by rasping static. Her parents arguing – staccato, thrusting gestures so fast and furious they are both sharp and a blur at the same time. Lucia Chocarro is the striking mother, a beautiful flamenco dancer, sinuous and expressive through every subtle turn of the hand and arch of the back.

The quality of the movement and the focus of the ensemble work is perfection. The realism feels relaxed and free form; the stylistic elements taut with tension. In addition to Lusby and Chocarro, the cast includes Miguel Hernando Torres Umba, Ryen Perkins-Gangnes and John Ross, who play multiple figures. Such is the multi-layered and multi-sensory experience of the piece, the incredible skill of the dancers is almost overlooked. Perkins-Gangnes, as the husband who had too tiny a window in which to express his release from the relationship, was glorious in its expression of freedom and deserved more.

The set design echoes the arc of the story, with frames and lightboxes overlapping and layering with complexity as the story unravels. There are dancing laptops and coffee cups in the dark. A flash of red or green silk hints at the sensuality beneath the corporate grey. The sophisticated lighting design by Chris Swain is matched in intricacy by the soundscape by Enzo Appetecchia. Noisy pop moves into upbeat everyday, which falls into discords and a constant, aggravating hum. There are snatches of multi-lingual conversation which serve to create further confusion.

Gecko is renowned for exploring the boundaries of physical theatre and dance, using every sensory and technical device to communicate the story. ‘Missing’ is just such a piece, complicated, visually rich, challenging: a turbulent dream where release follows tension, a pause is followed by a gasp of breath, and even in resolution, the audience is left spell-bound, hanging.

The tour continues to Southampton, Valencia and Oxford.

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