News

The Wedding at V&A

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We’re delighted that Gecko designer Rhys Jarman’s work on The Wedding will be part of ‘Staging Places: UK Design for Performance’.

The exhibition at the V&A shines a light on the diversity of design in British theatre, from lighting to costume to set.

The exhibition runs until 29th March 2020.

See the links below for more details.

https://stagingplaces.co.uk/exhibitions/vanda/

https://www.vam.ac.uk/event/ka4doBaB/staging-places-uk-design-for-performance-2016-2019

We’re planning a game-changing new building…

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We're planning a game-changing new building on Ipswich's iconic waterfront.

Our new Head of Operations and Development Steve Allman says:

"We're thrilled to be working with out partners at Ipswich Borough Council to transform an unloved warehouse into the Gecko Creation Space, a world class facility which will act as our headquarters and allow us to create new shows, work in partnership with companies and artists from around the world and will be the home for our participation projects.

It's really exciting that the Creation Space will be the catalyst for the whole of the St Peter's Dock redevelopment, transforming this neglected end of the waterfront into a creative hub for the arts and digital sector. We can't wait to share our plans with you in the near future."

Watch this 'space' for the Gecko Creation Space...

Fly the flag for human rights every day

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Gecko and Mind the Gap were delighted to take part in Fly the Flag week (24-28 June 2019), a nationwide campaign to mark 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On every weekday of that week, the cast members of 'A Little Space' (Gecko’s co-production with Mind the Gap) talked about a particular article within the charter, as well as reflect on what is important to them.

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Fly The Flag 70

www.geckotheatre.com/a-little-space/

Watch the playlist on our Facebook page here.

A new show is coming...

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We're excited to announce our first collaborative show with Mind the Gap, one of Europe’s leading learning disability theatre companies.

A LITTLE SPACE
Imagine a space where we can escape the world and be ourselves. Where we can say whatever we want, do whatever we feel and where no-one will ever bother us. But it can be an unpredictable space too, where voices are funnelled away, fears leak through the floorboards, songs light up the room and you never know who’s listening behind the door. A place where whispers come to life and one kind gesture could change everything.

Click here to find out more about A Little Space and see where it’s touring near you…

Our first ever Patrons!

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We are delighted to have the endorsement and support of our Patrons, who are passionate about Gecko and united in the goal of bringing the company’s ground-breaking work to new audiences.

ARLENE PHILLIPS CBE

Honoured as a CBE for her services to dance and charity, Arlene Phillips has become a household name, known for creating the provocative and revolutionary dance group Hot Gossip in the 70s and working with stars from film, TV and theatre. Her work includes choreographing hit West End and Broadway musicals, Hollywood films, and iconic music videos, through to her television work as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing and presenter.

“I’m thrilled and excited to be a patron of Gecko. It’s exciting theatre than combines dance with extraordinary music and soundscapes and a unique and strange storytelling style that draws you in. I’ve loved Gecko from the first moment I saw the company perform, and have the utmost admiration for Amit and the company.”

DOMINIC WEST

Dominic West is a Sheffield-born actor, director and musician. He is perhaps best known for his role in hit TV series The Wire and The Affair but has worked extensively across screen and stage in both UK and US. Dominic is starring in the upcoming BBC adaptation of Les Misérables by Andrew Davies, and in October 2018 was awarded the Canneseries Excellence Award at the international TV showcase Mipcom for his outstanding contribution in TV series.

“A Gecko show is always a thrillingly inventive concert of lyrical movement, breathtaking imagery and a wry humanity. 

I have loved watching them for nearly two decades, since I first met Amit through the Argentinian group ‘De La Guarda’ and, to be honest, I’m still waiting for them to cast me in one of their shows! 

I was one of the many people booked to see Missing at Battersea Arts Centre in the week of the 2015 fire. It was remarkable to see the way they rolled up their sleeves and produced a brilliant stripped-down version of the show, just a week after losing everything. 

In 2019 we’ll see a long overdue broadening of their reach and their audience and I am delighted to be associated with that.”

Artistic Director Amit Lahav said:
“I am delighted that Arlene Philips and Dominic West have become our first Gecko patrons.  They have both shown real enthusiasm and encouragement for the company’s work over the years and are keen to support Gecko’s future plans. Both Arlene and Dom have enormous experience and expertise in their respective fields in choreography, directing, performance and film and I look forward to continuing our conversations, reflecting on the industry and dreaming of future possibilities. I have always declared relationships as the central ethos of Gecko and I feel a warmth and connection with our patrons, energised by a drive to keep seeing Gecko grow and pursue its dreams. It is important to us that we have patrons who have a love for Gecko, a willingness to support our future development and who bring to the company diverse expertise – Dominic and Arlene are perfect ambassadors and great friends too”.

‘Our work is exhilarating, but only if we’re standing on stable ground.’

We’ve caught up with our General Manager Joff to see what he’s been up to in his first five months. 

What are your day to day tasks as Gecko’s General Manager?

I still feel I am very new to this role, so I’m not quite sure I know exactly what my day-to-day tasks are for Gecko. There are always lots of things to do and quite often something to solve, so it’s hard to simply say “finance, planning, relationships and organisation.”

My job title is General Manager, but in Gecko’s unique and idiosyncratic way the role is probably slightly different from General Managers at many other similar sized arts organisations. My role is to some extent in two halves, the first being about stability, the second growth. The stability half includes company management, company organisation and sensible informed decision-making. Within this I manage our relationship with Arts Council and Ipswich Borough Council, two of our principal funders. I also monitor and maintain the office function of the organisation; ensuring we are timely with all our reporting, payments and systems. I support our Board of Directors to ensure there is a healthy, critical and productive relationship to the making and touring of Gecko work. Much of this work is cyclical, so for example with the Board we meet quarterly, and so papers need to be generated quarterly in advance of meetings. In a sense that answers the ‘day-to-day’ question, there are always tasks to be completed for forthcoming deadlines. I am currently in the middle of our annual Arts Council data return. This is a big survey required by Arts Council to monitor and record what their portfolio organisations are doing to build a big, complex national picture of the arts under their support.

The other half of my job is about growth. This can include new opportunities, new plans for Gecko, new partnerships locally and regionally and to seek out new life! It’s hard to explain this in the notion of ‘day-to-day’ as working in this was is always different, exciting and potentially challenging. I try to divide my time half and half between stability and growth, and I think this is the best approach, certainly for me personally but also for Gecko.

We are always ambitious and want our work to be as exhilarating as possible, but this is only feasible if we are standing on level and stable ground.

How have you made the role your own in your first five months here?

I always try to bring my enthusiasm, enjoyment and energy to any role I undertake, and really that’s what I hope I have left with Gecko so far.

My previous job was working for an Arts Council Bridge across the East of England and many of my relationships, understanding and awareness of the cultural landscape in this area is informed by that work. I have also worked in museums, art galleries, taught in colleges, as part of a library reading project and for a touring orchestra. I have worked with pre-schoolers to adults from all walks of life and try to ensure my work is concerned with making amazing arts and culture available to all whatever their background. This is an ideal fit for Gecko’s ambitions and approach. Sometimes this can be challenging as not everyone believes the arts have value for everybody. However, I have learnt that patience, passion and commitment are qualities that will gradually break down walls.

I can see so many amazing possibilities for us as a company and I am working at making them / some of them / all of them possible. I am really interested in what the core of our business is, in regards to making Gecko shows and touring them, but I am also really impassioned by our brilliant education and community work. I find an aspect of Gecko’s work that really chimes with me is our commitment to education, learning and community engagement. There is room for more, but that isn’t a bad thing as it means there’s opportunity.

 

“Everyone has welcomed me with
open arms, open minds and
a curiosity to see what I can bring to the table.”

 

Have there been any highlights so far during your time at Gecko?

A highlight was seeing The Wedding on tour in Watford. It was great to see the audience respond with such enthusiasm and energy. I have also really enjoyed working with our Board as well, a team of critically engaged, supportive and interesting people.

The Gecko family in its broadest sense is also a true highlight for this organisation. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms, open minds and a curiosity to see what I can bring to the table. The nature of my work is cumulative and some things I’m aiming to achieve will take time to become reality, not dissimilar to a Gecko show. Good things take time to mature.

What are your future plans for Gecko?

World domination? The Moon? The colonisation of distant galaxies?

Who inspires you?

I love questions like this! I have many people who have inspired me across my life from childhood heroes to platonic crushes on minds. I admire people I’ve worked with who are excellent at their work, all the way to pretend people who are able to make amazing things in the stories I enjoy.

Currently I quite enjoy being line-managed by Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool FC. For my sins I am a Liverpool fan, so I probably enjoy Klopp slightly more than non-football people or supporters of other teams. To me he is funny, enlightening and passionate. If I ever have a problem I can’t quite solve within work, I pick a Klopp interview to watch and often it helps me solve the problem.

We are in a good moment, and we are going in the right direction – it is about pushing the train, not jumping on a running train.

As an artist in your own right, is there a particular Gecko image that is striking to you, and why?

Not to be contrary, but I am going to answer this in regards to music. I love the musicality of the shows, from the wonderful scores Dave produces to the rhythmical elements within the performances. The shows are so beautifully aesthetic as well, and it’s hard to pick a single moment, but the forced perspective sequence in The Wedding is wonderful to behold. It really wowed me the first time I saw it. There is a magical, hyperreal quality to our shows that is visceral but also leads to towards surrealism. It’s beautiful, hypnotic and intoxicating. I love it.

Physical theatre meets mental health

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Production image from Institute

Following Gecko’s Wellcome funded project around Institute in Autumn 2016, Ezra Hewing, Head of Mental Health Education at Suffolk Mind, wrote the following article reflecting on the experience.

A project involving Gecko, a physical theatre company based in Ipswich, and charity Suffolk Mind has resulted in a new approach to addressing mental health.

Following a successful tour of their performance, Institute, which explores the themes of men’s mental health and what it means to take care of somebody, Gecko approached Suffolk Mind in February of 2016, initially seeking support with enabling their audiences to further explore the issues raised in Institute. But having attended training which introduced Suffolk Mind’s approach to mental health, they decided to take things further.

At the core of Suffolk Mind’s approach is the understanding that we all have emotional needs which have to be met for us to stay mentally healthy, and that we have the innate resources – skills and tools we are born with – to meet those needs. Gecko delivers physical theatre workshops all over the country and wondered whether their particular, visceral style of work could be a successful vehicle for people to explore their emotional needs and methods of caring for them.

Gecko was awarded a grant from Wellcome to devise and deliver a programme of ancillary activities around the autumn 2016 tour of Gecko’s production Institute to engage audiences with issues around mental wellbeing arising in the show.

The project involved four venues, Quay Place in Ipswich, HOME in Manchester, the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton and Liverpool Playhouse and was targeted at working age men with or without mental health challenges, who were non-traditional theatre attenders.

The programme included watching the performance; attending a post-show discussion with local expert mental health service providers and users on the panel able to answer mental health related questions; and participation in a specially developed physical theatre workshop combining Gecko’s physical theatre methods and Suffolk Mind’s work on Emotional Needs, created and delivered by Amit Lahav, Gecko’s Artistic Director, Helen Baggett, Gecko’s Associate Director and Ezra Hewing, Head of Mental Health Education at Suffolk Mind. Each performance was attended by representatives from the local Mind or similar mental health service providers to offer support and share information about available services.

A free programme was created and given to every audience member with information about Institute, Emotional Needs, an article commissioned from Simon Anderson and Julie Brownlie, debating a possible correlation between the decline in industry and a rise in male mental ill-health and local mental health resources.

The project aimed to increase self-awareness of mental health issues and provide the knowledge and tools to help participants learn to support their own emotional needs leading to improved mental wellbeing. It also aimed to help break down barriers to engagement with local mental health providers, have a positive impact on reducing stigma attached to seeking help, and to consider any link between a decline in industry and a rise in male mental ill health. Evaluation was carried out immediately following a performance, post-show discussion, and workshop with the option of participating in a case study and being interviewed one month and three months later to measure immediate and longer term benefits. While researchers had expected positive outcomes, given the experience of the workshop leaders, they were taken aback by the results. One participant fed back that the  workshop “should be put on prescription on the NHS,” while another commented “my friend, he’s been in psychotherapy …, and he said in that two hours he did more work than in those eighteen months.”

Another suggested a reason for the success of the workshop was the creation of “an environment of trust, and of safety and of community.”

It was clear that physical theatre workshops were highly effective interventions for increasing self-awareness and engagement with learning on how to care for their emotional wellbeing; and for supporting emotional connection in people who have difficulty making said connections:

“I put walls up and what struck me was that there were no walls while I was doing that (eye contact) piece. I stripped myself totally bare  …  And … it felt ok.  So maybe it’s ok and I’m ok and I’m safe to start doing that in everyday life.  In friendships, in relationships, just in general.”

That physical theatre intervention can be effective means of communicating, through an immersive experience, the reality of mental ill health; and specifically, communicating the struggles of male mental ill health to women.

“The portrayal of emotion through movement was beautiful and thought-provoking. It highlighted how men verbally hide their emotion.  It showed how vulnerable men can be, no matter how much they distract from that.  The inclusion of foreign languages helps portray this verbal barrier men put up between each other.”

Everybody who completed a questionnaire agreed that it had increased their awareness of their emotional needs and ways in which they could look after them. 74% identified positive changes they planned to make, and one month later 81% had experienced an improvement in their wellbeing, which they said was as a result of the workshop, and this improvement was maintained after three months. The results convinced the Gecko-Suffolk Mind partnership that it would be valuable to continue the workshop programme beyond the tour of Institute. Having run it as a standalone at Latitude Festival in July, they are now exploring making it available at sixth forms and colleges, in light of the recent attention drawn to the rising mental ill health challenges of teenagers and young people.

Ezra Hewing, Head of Mental Health Education, Suffolk Mind.

Ed Blog 2 | The Dreamer | Article In The Stage

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For our second Ed Blog, we thought we’d share with you an article The Stage wrote about The Dreamer after its first performances in Shanghai last October. In it, Rich and Chris explain how the idea for The Dreamer came about, how Gecko and SDAC made the show together and what they hoped would be next for the show.

Click here to read the article in full.

Luckily, these hopes came true, and Rich and Chris are both currently in Shanghai again now re-working the show before its run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe 2nd – 15thAugust at the Pleasance Grand.

Click here to book tickets

Click here to watch the trailer for The Dreamer


EdLog | The Dreamer | Shanghai’s Marriage Market

As the team head back out to Shanghai to re-work The Dreamer, Rich reflects on one of the most influential moments of last year, and how that impacted on the creation of the show. The Dreamer is Gecko’s first ever international co-production (with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre) and was created in 2016 as part of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme.

“We were in the middle of devising a show, which focuses on Helena from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I found myself stood in a beautiful park, in the middle of a very modern city, surrounded by thousands of people desperate to find love.

That sunny day in the park changed everything, not only with regards to the show, but also how I thought about relationships. In China, they have a derogatory term for women in their late 20s who are not yet married… they are referred to as ‘Left Over’.

Being in the market itself is pretty much just a surreal walk through a very beautiful park, but at the same time it’s a bit like being inside a live-action-super-analogue version of Tinder. The main difference being that it’s the parents of single people who have set up a large proportion of the ‘profiles’, not singles themselves. Often the people who are on ‘offer’ don’t know that their parents have made a profile for them in the park.

If you haven’t heard about this unusual form of matchmaking, this video, which is doing the rounds on Facebook pretty much sums the place up. (Despite obviously being an advert, it does have a interesting message). The markets happen all over China, several times a week in some places, and they are really popular. You can walk for about 20 minutes through the market in Shanghai and still be in the market. It’s big. I tried to take some photos and interview some of the ‘agents’ who negotiate the ‘matches’ but every time I got my camera out, people covered their faces and told me to stop filming.

This video is a really positive attempt to break down the idea of ‘Left Overs’ and, on the whole, women in China found the market a strange place. Performers who took me to the park found the experience very uncomfortable. It’s obviously not for everyone, but it’s clearly a known way to date in Shanghai.

Making The Dreamer in Shanghai was really fascinating for so many reasons, but the day I visited this place, was the day I could see how a 400 year old character (Helena, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) might find love in Shanghai in 2017.”

To watch the video mentioned above in full, please click here.

To watch the trailer for The Dreamer, please click here.

For more information on the show and to book tickets for the Fringe, please click here.

Artistic Placement in the rehearsal room with Gecko – Michael

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I arrived at Gecko’s rehearsal room Monday morning to find the studio already abuzz with activity. The five performers assembled for this week’s R&D were clapping and stomping and swirling their way through the space. This would be a daily ritual. Every morning, before rehearsals had even begun they would spend an hour warming their bodies and focusing their minds for the work ahead. As the week progressed this sense of preparation and commitment never wavered. At every stage the performers threw themselves into each particular and often peculiar provocation —You’re a stockbroker in a high pressure world bartering for a better deal! Make a dance using this broom! Learn this song, this clapping pattern, a new language! — Each stimulus began to inform the next and slowly a narrative was being hinted at. The destination might be unknown, at least to me, but there was a sense that we were going somewhere.

Talking to Amit, Gecko’s Artistic Director, about his process, he explained that these creations were brush strokes. They were broad patches of colour that were used to fill the canvas and crucially unearth emotions and dynamics that would help shape the final work. He confessed that almost nothing from this week’s R&D would make it into the final show. I suppose that could sound nihilistic but it seems like a natural process. Gecko’s work is centred on the dramaturgy of the body. Unlike a writer who works by placing words in a certain order to create meaning Gecko use the physical language of gesture, rhythm and space. A string of moments come together, layering meaning to form an idea, a story, an experience. It’s no coincidence that their work has to be seen to be understood. That’s not to say that the rehearsal room was deathly silent. It was never quiet. Music, voice and percussion were constantly driving the action. But there is no script that could convey what is presented onstage. Any words that are spoken seem to be driven from a physical impulse and only help to add new colours to the stage.

As I reflect on my week with Gecko there a two things that stick with me. The first is the commitment and focus of the performers throughout rehearsals. Often, directors talk about creating a specific rehearsal room culture and Gecko have engendered a focus that is testament to the quality of their practice. The second is the playfulness and openness that goes into their work. By creating and playing simple games they find theatrical ways to explore specific situations. Rich, Associate Director, summed up his thoughts on this process by saying that “Gecko takes the mundane aspects of our lives and magnifies them to explore their absurdities and expose our humanity”. An office environment is quickly established and before long the improvised scenarios become underlying structures on which a scene can be played out. This continues to be refined but constantly returns to the central rules of the original game. As in real life we are all bound by the rulebook of our environment and traditions and nowhere does this seem more pertinent than in the concept of a wedding.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this week’s R&D develops and what elements, if any, survive into the final performance of The Wedding.

Gecko wins Peter Brook Award for Equity Ensemble 2016

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The Empty Space Peter Brook Awards celebrate innovation and pioneering concepts in smaller theatre spaces in the spirit of multi-award winning director Peter Brook, ‘our greatest living theatre director’. Now in their 27th year, the Awards were founded by theatre critic Blanche Marvin.

Peter Brook Equity Ensemble Award aims to recognise and further develop ensemble work within studio theatres and is aimed at helping a company with continued funding.

Other nominees for best Equity Ensemble were Antic Disposition, Bike Shed Theatre and 1927.

Amit Lahav, Gecko’s Artistic Director said: “This is a beautiful shot in the arm. So often our focus as artists and makers is to push forward with drive and commitment as we seek to create the best work possible. This can feel like a lonely passion. Just to know there is a kind hand on your back willing you on, is something very touching and meaningful.  As for the word ensemble, this has real significance and value for us as the very notion runs through the veins of Gecko. Be that a shared breath on stage, or a sense of unity which is shared throughout the company, marked so poignantly by the entire companies efforts to recreate our Missing set which was lost to the fire at BAC last year, ensemble encapsulates our identity and as artists and leaders in these troubling times, we feel our commitment to this value has an important role in society.”

‘This is the essence of art and art in theatre is a precious gift’.  Blanche Marvin, emptyspaceSTUDIO London Theatreviews, Missing, BAC 12.03.15****

In the picture: Amit Lahav (Artistic Director) and Rosalind Wynn (Executive Producer) at the Awards ceremony.

Artistic Placement on tour with Gecko - Stella

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My week with Gecko took place in Manchester on their tour to HOME, after having seen Gecko’s performances before and being a big fan of their work I was excited to be able to spend a week fully immersed in their touring process.

The week started with a busy flurry of activity unloading lorries and piecing together the massive puzzle of a set during the get in. The production team were a friendly and open group who knew each other well and were very welcoming. It was a joy to watch and be part of transforming a bare stage into the mysterious world of Institute, and in such a short amount of time. It amazed me to see the production manager and technical manager sanding and grinding down parts of the drawers to fit the new set hours before the first show was due to start, and then to watch the show run seamlessly that evening. It’s goes as a testament to how experienced the team at Gecko are.

It was great to meet the producer at Gecko and understand the process of getting programmes and flyers ready for the tour, and to meet the front of house team from HOME. It was particularly interesting to learn that counsellors from the local mental health organisation, Manchester Self Help Services were going to be there at each show to offer support to the audience post show. This acted as a lovely transition to bring us into the workshop and post show discussions held over the next few days, and was particularly interesting to meet them and hear their thoughts after the shows.

As the week progressed I sat in on rehearsals with the cast, which was very generous, and gave me a sneak peek on how even in a show that has been running for over a year there is room for changes and perfecting moments. I was also able to watch the show every night, from back stage, from the auditorium and from the LX and sound booth-which has been a privilege and has given me a well-rounded knowledge of all aspects of how the show is run. Being able to sit down with the LX re-lighter and talk through more specialized questions I had, was a valuable addition to the week. My schedule as a whole was very generous and tailored giving me a jam-packed and really  insightful week in touring a production from the get in to the get out, and everything in between.

From the cast and production team at Gecko to the staff at HOME I was welcomed with open arms and free to question anything I was curious about. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to take everything I learnt with me through my career and keep in touch!