Artistic Placement in the rehearsal room with Gecko – Michael

Jan1.jpg

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

Peter-Brook-Award-pic-1-500x500.jpg

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

Institute Chris Evans Front Of Screen - Cr Richard Haughton.jpg

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!

Work Experience Blog - Alys

Alys.jpg

I’ve had a great week with Gecko! I have been based in the office with Gecko’s lovely team – Belinda, Pippa and Thomas – who have been very welcoming and generous with their time.

My week has involved some administrative jobs, as well as the creation of Gecko’s quarterly E-newsletter. Belinda kindly devoted some time to talking me through Gecko’s business plan and funding application to the Arts Council. This gave me a really comprehensive summary of everything that Gecko does. It was an important reminder that community-engaged theatre companies like Gecko don’t just create sensitive and challenging performances, but also operate from day to day by responding sensitively to their working environments, taking care with safeguarding, equal opportunities, environmental impact, etc.

I think my favourite experiences of the week were sitting in on team meetings. It was a great opportunity to hear about Gecko’s current projects and future plans, and really lovely to pick up on the care and protection Gecko extends to its freelance performers. These were discussions with a conscience, interested in the artistic development, confidence, energy levels and workload of Gecko’s performers. From the edges, the theatre industry can often feel intimidating and cut-throat, so it was heartening to see a successful company so invested in protecting and mentoring developing artists.

At the mid-week team meeting, I also had the privilege of hearing Artistic Director, Amit, reflect on Institute’s time at HOME in Manchester, and the success of the workshop he had devised and delivered in collaboration with Mind. It was lovely to witness the generosity and humility of Amit’s approach to the offerings of others, and his joy in the face of other people’s emotional and artistic break-throughs. I will go forward with the absolute certainty of Gecko’s heart for others. The most important lesson of this week, for me, has been that great theatre is not about pushing towards some objective, aesthetic standard of art, but making sure that art is invested in community and human experience, and evolves through interaction and truth-telling.

I have had a wonderful week with Gecko and feel certain that there are wonderful things to come from this company that we all love so much!

This placement has come at an ‘in-between’ time for me. I have just finished an MA at KCL and am now looking forward to spending the festive season on tour as an intern actor with a Birmingham-based theatre company. I am also working on my application to study physical theatre at École de Jacques Lecoq in Paris next autumn. I’m extremely grateful for Gecko’s time, energy, hospitality and welcome. The result is that people like me can keep learning and creating and feel like we have a place and a hope in this wonderful, daunting industry!

Work Experience Blog - Jasmin

Jasmine pic.jpg

I have always been interested in theatre, even when I was really young and we used to go and watch the rock and roll panto at the New Wolsey Theatre. I have always enjoyed drama and performing, getting the chance to be someone completely different, a made up character. So when I was told I had to choose a work experience placement I knew I had to do something to do with theatre. Then my school offered me the chance to do it at Gecko. To be honest I hadn’t actually heard of Gecko before this, so was not completely sure what it was, however I soon after found out and was extremely excited to be doing my work experience there.

On my first day I was greeted by Belinda who then introduced me to everyone, luckily for me there was a show being rehearsed so I got to meet the performers that would soon be starring in that, everyone was so friendly and kind. Belinda also introduced me to everyone in the office, who were equally as nice. I got to see how many people and how much work was behind the shows.

To begin with my tasks included things such as scanning and transferring the scans onto the computer. As the week progressed I was able to do more tasks such as gathering statistics and putting them onto the computer. During the week I also got the opportunity to visit another company associated with Gecko, and help out putting together letters to go out, for their upcoming event, the Spill festival.

Gecko is an amazing place to be, the atmosphere is so nice and everyone is always prepared to help out. It was really nice to see the inside of a company, how many aspects there are to it, and how many people have to contribute in order to make things run properly.

It was great to meet so many new people and do my work experience at Gecko.

Thanks Gecko!


Work Experience Blog - Harriet

Hettie P.jpg

Before I started my work experience at Gecko I was unsure on whether I would like to pursue a career in the theatre when I am older. Luckily over the last two weeks I have had an amazing opportunity to see what it would be like. 

I have always been very keen on theatre both on and off stage. At school I have definitely gone down the theatrical route. I am doing GSCE Drama and dance as well as BTEC technical theatre skills. Also I’m always one of the first to have their name on the sign up sheets for school performances.

When people first meet me I am quite a shy person but that wasn’t a problem for Pippa and Belinda who were both ready with a neighbourly welcome. I started off my first week with simple yet exciting tasks and as the week went on I got a chance to meet a lot of new interesting people within the Gecko team who made me feel like one of them. One of the best things about it was how much I was included and how I was actually making a contribution to the company. Some of the tasks I have done include updating the UK mailing list and scanning documents onto Gecko’s sharepoint. With Gecko there is never a dull day even the most “boring” tasks were exciting and gave me a chance to learn something new. Some people don’t understand or appreciate the work that goes on behind the scenes, if someone who has that mindset came to Gecko, within an instant they would understand how important the whole team is.

I would recommend applying for work experience with Gecko because it is a wonderful and happy place to be. It will also give you a fascinating look into the many different roads and pathways within the theatre. The possibilities are endless.

I have enjoyed my experience with Gecko immensely and I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone for making me feel at home. Also a incredibly sad goodbye, I will miss working with the whole Gecko team a lot. 

Work Experience Blog - Bethany

BethanyPic2.jpg

I was inspired recently to see how Gecko used physical theatre techniques in their production “Institute”. Alongside the humour, powerful physical images, narrative and set, I was fascinated by the unique way Gecko communicates through the universal language of movement as opposed to depending on the spoken word. With my ambition to use theatre in the future as a means of communicating and inspiring those in other countries, Gecko has revealed the effectiveness of physical theatre as a tool of communication and demonstrated that language is not necessarily restricted to a verbal level.

When the opportunity arose for a week’s Work Experience in the Gecko office, I could think of no better place to learn about the business side of managing a Theatre Company, because of my admiration for their performances and their success in taking productions to international audiences.

Both Pippa and Belinda were so lovely and welcoming! Despite their hectic schedule, they always managed to find time to answer my questions or explain aspects of the company e.g. job roles, funding, current projects etc. The week itself included a variety of different tasks; designing a leaflet for the new Admin Internship, updating national and international mailing lists, watching technical rehearsals with the cast at Dance East, and culminating in a sharing of their new production ‘The Wedding’. Although I was expecting to work mainly within the office, I also had an insight into the creative aspects too! I am interested to find out how this piece develops.

From just one week working within the office I realised the amount of organisation, time, work, and multitasking needed in managing the company! The creative would not be possible without the office and I feel that it’s important for anyone with the ambition to set up a theatre company to understand and experience this!

I have left Gecko with a renewed passion for physical theatre and directing, and also a newly discovered respect for the work that goes on behind the scenes in the office.

Work Experience Blog - Harriet

The first time I saw a Gecko show was two years ago, from the very moment the performance started I was in awe! The beautiful expressive movement, the attention to detail and the unique way the show spoke to the audience on an individual basis became the notable starting point to my love of Gecko’s work.

I am currently in my third year studying Theatre and Drama at the University of South Wales.  For a independent professional development module I had to undertake a work placement with a company from the arts sector. I was asked ‘If there were no limitations, where would your dream placement be?’  My answer ‘Gecko! ‘

As you can now imagine, arriving at the Gecko office was very nerve racking. However the moment I stepped into the office I was welcomed with friendliness and open arms by both Pippa and Belinda. My week consisted of meeting a lot of the staff and creative team, sitting in on incredibly interesting meetings, assisting with writing the E-Newsletter, pulling material together for funding applications, and helping with other administrative tasks. I felt a true part of the Gecko team and benefitted from seeing a side of the company that most audience members don’t take into account. From spending my time with Gecko I have a greater understanding of the vast amount of work, time and detail that goes into running a internationally recognised theatre company, as well as an insight into the work that happens away from the stage which has an equal impact and value.

Gecko have been my inspiration to pursue a career in Physical Theatre, and I owe a debt of thanks to the team for having me for the week. I would recommend anybody with an interest in theatre to apply for a placement, as the benefits of my week have been endless.