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.