"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.

Global Climate Strike 20th September 2019

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This Friday (20th Sept), the Gecko team will be supporting the UK Student Climate Network’s (UKSCN) Global Climate Strike.

The strike aims to combat the Climate Crisis, protest the government’s lack of action, and support young people across the world who have already been striking for a better future.

Gecko creates shows in response to contemporary societal issues aiming to encourage reflection and dialogue with our audiences. We are beginning work on our new show, which will explore themes of migration, including the displacement of people linked to climate change.

We’re aware that as a touring company we have a carbon footprint and aim to reduce our impact wherever possible including upcycling found objects for props and costumes, travelling by train in the UK and abroad when able, and increasing the length of long distance visits through scheduling touring and additional education work within the same region. We always continue to interrogate the ways in which we can improve.

Artistic Director of Gecko, Amit Lahav, said:

“I think everyone that has an organisation, and that certainly applies to arts organisations, should have a conscientious objective within their organisation to be taking this more seriously than anything else that we’re faced with. I feel a moral obligation to respond, and to think carefully about what we need to be doing. Whether that’s through the creation of work that responds to the climate disaster that we’re facing, or whether that’s in personal life.”

The Gecko team will be joining a number of others in attending our local strike outside Cornhill Town Hall in Ipswich at midday on Friday, and we invite our friends and supporters, both locally and internationally, to get involved.

Visit the UKSCN website to find where your local strike is taking place, or to read up on the organisation’s mission and reasons to join the movement this Friday.

#ClimateStrike

@UKSCN1

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

Work Experience Blog - Amelie

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In July 2019, Amelie from Kesgrave High School spent a week with us in the office. Here is her diary of the week…

Monday

I woke up this morning feeling incredibly anxious with a twisting feeling in my stomach. Going into a new unknown environment is always a little bit scary. However, when I rang the doorbell at Gecko this morning my stomach was put at ease, I was greeted by everyone in the office with keen energy. I started by familiarising myself with Gecko’s work by watching Taylor’s Dummies. This is an incredibly engaging piece with explosive visual effects - you really should give it a watch. After I had watched this we all went and had a cup of tea in the garden, i got the chance to ask the team some questions so I could get to know them better and the conversation was highly topical, discussing Mamma Mia and Grease as well! Later on I was given the task of sorting the tour dates on the website and making sure they were all up to date. I also had too chose some previous posters of Gecko’s work, which gave me the chance to look through the archives and further engage with the company. Looking forward to the rest of the week.

Tuesday

After having an awful night last night I was feeling down this morning. However, once I got into the Gecko office I felt immediately welcomed and looked forward to being able to take my mind off things and do some work. My first task for today was finding a picture for a new Instagram post about the Company Administrator vacancy. I chose a vibrant one from the Time of Your Life and wrote the caption. After this I co-created the Instagram story advertising the fact that the job admissions need to be in tomorrow. I enjoy working with social media so I found this task enjoyable and I am proud with how it looks. This afternoon I have been collecting data from Instagram insights and compelling them into a spreadsheet. I actually found this quite interesting as it gave me the view on how big Gecko’s work really is.

Wednesday

This morning I sat in on one of Mani and Pippa’s meetings. Here I saw one of Pippa’s many many spreadsheets which enclosed all the bookings for future workshops, which I helped her to update. After that I went to get lunch in town and had my favourite lunch yet: Greggs’ Mexican wrap (I am seriously enjoying the selection of food I have on my lunch breaks). After lunch I joined Pippa and Mani on a BSL (British Sign Language) class where I picked up a few signs including swimming, sandwich, wine, dog and bacon - the essentials! After this class I am interested in learning sign language and will look into where I can - I never thought I would have done that this week and I surprised myself with how interesting I found it!

Thursday

My second to last Gecko day! This week has gone so quickly - I’ve only just been able to wake up on time this morning. Today like my other days I was presented with tasks throughout the day, firstly doing my spreadsheet then compiling questions for a quiz. The quiz settled a bet between Steve and Pippa - but unfortunately they drew (I will have to write another one for tomorrow!).

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to interview Amit the artistic director of Gecko. This was interesting as it gave me more of an insight to Gecko’s creative development process.

Friday

Today is my last day at the Gecko office and I’m honestly going to miss it. Throughout my involvement within a working environment it has been significant to make sure all criteria are met to a high standard but this environment is not pressurised as everyone has been very easy to talk to which lead to some fun conversations.

I would highly recommend Gecko as a week for work experience! 

 

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...

Work Placement Blog - Bethany

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In May 2019, we welcomed Bethany into the Gecko offices for a work placement. Here is her week, in her own words…

I arrived in Ipswich on Tuesday 27th of May after an hour-long journey from home (Essex). I was greeted by Hugh and Sarah, a lovely couple I was staying with during my placement, who live a fifteen-minute walk away from the Gecko Office- ideal!

I’m currently in my second year at Falmouth University studying ‘Theatre and Performance’ (BA Hons) and hope to build my own theatre company in my third year. This placement has helped me better understand the mechanics and administrative tasks that running a theatre company requires, and therefore, could not have come at a better time for me!

Before arriving at Gecko, I was filled with a mixture of nerves and excitement but was immediately put at ease by the friendly and welcoming staff at Gecko. I was given a tour of the office, a cup of tea and was introduced to everyone. I spent my week with Manwah (Mani) Siu, Administration and Digital Marketing Officer, Steve Allman- Head of Operations and Development and Pippa Fox- Projects and Participation Manager.

During my placement, I was given a variety of tasks such as reading over Gecko’s marketing pack for ‘The Wedding’, updating Gecko’s local school spreadsheet, attending a Marketing Meeting with Mani at Ipswich Town Hall, providing feedback on Gecko’s website, promotional videos and more. I felt like I was given genuine responsibility as a co-worker in the office and was able to ask any questions I liked.

This summer some of my course mates and I have formed the theatre company ‘Solo Theatre’ and are performing our show ‘Fragments’ as part of the Camden Fringe Festival (2019) and the Exeter Fringe Festival (2019). This placement was incredibly useful for gaining advice surrounding the administration tasks for taking performances touring to different venues. I had opportunities to talk to each staff member one to one to find out what their role is like and ask for specific information that will help my future career and upcoming festival projects. Pippa helped me explore Gecko’s SharePoint- this was incredibly useful to see how all their masses of documents and information is orgainsed. Mani provided me with really helpful advice on Solo Theatre’s social media accounts and marketing whilst Steve showed me spreadsheet examples on Excel and taught me how to operate a spreadsheet for my festival projects!

On my third day, (which was a sunny one), Amit Lahav dropped into the office, we sat outside, and I was able to ask questions surrounding the formation of Gecko, his artistic vision and if he had any advice for young theatre makers over a cup of tea. I felt very lucky to have had this opportunity and was left feeling inspired.

To end my Gecko experience, I took a trip with Steve and Pippa down to where Gecko’s new building is likely to be situated and was able to have a look at some of Gecko’s prop store in Ipswich- exciting! Before having some cake, and yes- more tea, to say goodbye.

This placement has been everything I hoped for and more- would definitely recommend!

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.

#FlytheFlag70
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…

Work Placement Blog - Rohan

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In February 2019, we welcome Rohan into the Gecko office for a work placement. Here is his week, in his own words, plus his review of The Time of Your Life (thanks Rohan!)

I’m writing this while perched on a red yoga ball which, in the midst of the Gecko office, is an apt visual cue for what it’s like to be working with the company. As a final year student at UEA, I’ve been commuting to Ipswich all this week to shadow the team. This naturally created a couple of problems (I haven’t had to wake up this early since my A-Levels), but it’s all been well worth the journey!

My first day was spent learning the ins and outs of Gecko, chatting with the general manager Joff about his experiences with the company and their (exciting) future plans. Due to Institute being on tour in Poland, the office was a bit emptier than usual but from the moment I walked through the door I felt really welcomed and inspired to learn as much as I could throughout the week.

I mainly spent my Tuesday in the company of Mani, interrogating him (but in a fun way) about his role as the company’s administrator before helping prepare for the upcoming performances at the Bristol Old Vic through contacting local schools about Institute. I finished the day by looking through the sales reports of their recent productions which opened my eyes to the networking that happens between professional theatres in the industry.

On Wednesday I was able to further shadow Mani as he worked on some marketing materials for Missing’s upcoming performances at the Oxford Playhouse. We also walked into Ipswich to see the potential site for Gecko’s new creative space, which was pretty exciting! Mani told me all about the company’s hopes for expansion. I was also able to watch The Time of Your Life, Gecko’s first made-for-TV production. I loved the incredible choreography and surrealist physicality of the piece and was left with a real desire to think more about the themes that Gecko explores.

During my penultimate day it was just Pippa and I in the office, so I took the opportunity to quiz her on all things related to education and production. Like the rest of the team, she was really open about her approach to working at Gecko and set me some really useful tasks to get me thinking about theatre producing (such as creating budgets etc.)

My final day was a quiet conclusion to the week, which continued to teach me that every day is different at Gecko. Due to some urgent company business, I was left to my own devices throughout the morning, of which I took advantage by watching The Overcoat on YouTube. One of Gecko’s older shows, I was very taken by the visuals and dystopian design. Though I was familiar with Gecko’s work before I began my placement here, I’ve been fully converted into an avid supporter over the last week and can’t wait to see more of their shows! To finish off my time here, Joff took me over to the prop store – giving me a glimpse into how much cool stuff the company has. I’ve had a brilliant week here and it’s been really insightful to observe a professional theatre company at work. If you’re interested in working in the arts, especially behind the scenes, then I’d highly recommend applying to pursue opportunities with Gecko.

The Time of Your Life

As soon as I finished watching The Time of Your Life for the first time, I started rewatching from the beginning to try and understand it all. Listening to Pippa and Mani talk about it beforehand, I loved and understood how much effort had been put into creating a televisual piece of Gecko theatre. The subtle message endorsing human connection caught me off guard and I was not expecting the last ten minutes. I remember looking at the time after the long one-camera scene (having assumed that was going to be the conclusion of the piece) and being really surprised that the story had another ten minutes to go.

I took note of the way Amit and the ensemble used breath throughout the scenes as well as the general flow of action which took the viewer from realism to surrealism without any jarring jolts. It reminded me of films like Arrival and The Truman Show but the live, one-take element brought something fresh alongside the incredible choreography and physicality that fully realised the thought-provoking story. At the end of the special, I was left with a real desire to think more about the themes Gecko were exploring.