"Entering the Institute to Peer into Male Love and Pain" by William W.Y. Chan

This month we went on tour to Hong Kong with Institute as part of the ‘Beyond Multi-arts’ series. The trip was a success, with Amit saying:

"Hong Kong was really fascinating, and a powerful week in a place which is in turmoil. It’s a reminder that art is important, and that it’s a place where we connect, discuss and play out our concerns, worries and politics. The houses were full which was a surprise, given what’s going on, but further evidence that art is important to people."

Below is an article about the show by William Chan, a performing arts critic and media producer, which was included in the brochure and the online Critics’ Guide:

“Exploring compassion and care between people

The director hopes to explore the concept and practice of "care" in contemporary society through this work. He believes that in a busy and ever-changing city, where people must hit targets and meet expectations in an endless struggle to get ahead, personal connections have long since fragmented, and many people are no longer willing to communicate with others. Although caring for and about the vulnerable, and trusting others seem to be instinctual to humans, do we still know how to protect and care for others? Do we still have the ability to read the emotions of others?

In early 2013, right at the start of the creative process, the creative team invited artists from different backgrounds, people on benefits, patients and their caregivers to explore and focus on the themes of mental health and care. The creative content has been greatly enriched through this research and the personal sharings.

Interestingly, Institute was originally developed by a cast of three actors and one actress, with the woman playing the role of the traditional caregiver. However, after nearly two years of development, the decision was made to replace the actress with an actor, in order to focus on the mechanisms of care between men, to challenge audience stereotypes through the contrast between strength and fragility, and to think more about men's mental health.

In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics in the UK, although women are more likely than men to suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, men's suicide rate is three times that of women! The reason is that men often feel ashamed when they encounter problems and are unwilling to seek attention from others. Therefore, another of Gecko’s aims is to highlight this problem through Institute.


Rich imagery inspires further imagination

The theatrical form of Institute displays all the usual Gecko hallmarks in terms of creative process and experimental direction. At each stage of creation, the director and performers work closely with the sound and technology departments to develop the work together, in the spirit of "Total Theatre”. The stories are told through images and sounds as well as by the performers. Therefore, the audience not only gets to enjoy the comic timing of the four actors, the beautiful formations embodying internal emotional states, and the extraordinarily intuitive way they present the paradox of intimacy and power between men, but also the way that the flexible, multifaceted scenery and precise lighting effects contribute organically to plot development, in a spectacular poetic counterpoint for this dark tragicomedy.

Although the director maintains that the theme of the piece is the relationship between those who care for and those who receive care, the richly intertwined images on stage allow for a multitude of interpretations. The title of the play, “Institute”, can refer to an organisation, a group, an educational or research institute, but it can also mean a building (such as a hospital or a prison), or the establishment or creation of systems. Interestingly, each of the above explanations can be experienced through the stage set, sound design and the arc of the characters. Each audience member can interpret the work through the prism of their own experience. At this particular moment in Hong Kong, I believe that the theme of freedom versus control is particularly resonant.

On the whole, the performances of Gecko are carefully planned and skilfully executed.  Adults, children, first-time and habitual theatre goers will all find it absorbing. So sit back and enjoy the high-energy performances of Institute—it is a feast for both the ears and the eyes.

William W.Y. Chan

A veteran performing arts critic and media producer, William Chan has been engaged mainly in performing arts research and media education in recent years.

(Translated by Amy Ng)”

The original online source can be found here.

Institute will be at Nottingham Playhouse in January 2020. Click here to book tickets.