Review: Kin. Gecko Theatre Company. Nottingham Playhouse

If you’re very lucky, just occasionally, a piece of theatre takes you on a rollercoaster of an emotional journey. From the buzz of collective excitement in the auditorium through to that heartbeat of silence before the audience rises as one to applaud the dazzling creative performance it can leave you emotional and pondering the brilliance of what you’ve experienced. Kin is such a piece.

The award winning and internationally acclaimed Gecko Theatre Company’s production Kin is a stunning example of physical theatre at its very best, exploring themes relevant to today. Both Inspiring yet provocative.

Gecko’s work is made by and for people from a multitude of cultures. Using multiple languages to tell universal stories through movement and emotion Kin embodies that deep interest in people. Their extraordinary and challenging journeys are brought to the stage expressing feelings and emotions in society. Kin is also an intensely personal story. Amit Lahav, Gecko’s Artistic Director and performer in Kin, has imagined the epic journey his grandmother made from Yemen to Palestine to escape persecution and build a better life.

It’s a particularly timely story given what it is happening in the world today. Kin is about exploring both where we all come from and where are we going. It asks, who am I and where do I belong?

The brilliance of Kin is not just in the storytelling and the performances. It’s the whole multi-layered package from the staging, sound, lighting through to the use of puppetry,  creating an often menacing atmosphere.

Watching Kin is an intense and highly visceral experience. The loud global soundtrack of multiple languages and music is integral to enhancing the performances. At times melodic and soothing, at others jarring and disconcerting. It carries you along with the performers as the stories unfold.

The lighting of the performers is particularly inspired and effective. The cast manipulate the lighting. At times the dark stage is lit only by the light of a television, a lamp or the harsh beam of a border spotlight intended to expose and stop migrants.

The set is minimal with a revolving stage that enhances the telling of multiple difficult and challenging journeys. The performers movements are often jerky and in constant motion displaying a passion and intensity that you don’t often see on stage. The depiction of the harsh reality of trying to cross borders and the inhumanity of those preventing people from doing so is both shocking and heart-breaking in its depiction.

A particularly moving section is when the life size puppets take centre stage. Their limbs and heads float in the dark yet are strangely grounded. The puppets’ movements are accompanied by the recorded words of holocaust survivors in English and Hebrew. It’s a heartbreaking scene. One of the few times words are more than part of the soundtrack.

Yet at times Kin is funny and uses humour to provide laugh out loud moments, providing a moment’s release from the emotional intensity of the story.  

The performances are incredible. It’s a surprise to realise that there are only eight people on stage. At times it could easily have been double that number. Towards the end of Kin the performers directly speak to the audience, stating who they are and where they have come from. It’s a simple but moving way to make the storytelling personal reminding us that we all have personal stories of our origins.

If you get the chance to see Kin on its short tour then do so. You’ll be moved to the core by its intensity and beauty. It’s an experience not to be missed.

You can see Kin at the Brighton Dome 1st, 3rd and 4th November and The National Theatre from 12th to 27th January 2024.

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