'I am sent with broom before, To sweep the dust behind the door' Act V, Scene I, A Midsummer Night's Dream
"That was a bit intense," said Dad as we bustled out of the theatre.
I agreed - it was very intense. In the finale of the show the pace of the movement grew and grew as each individual cast member pulled up a chair to the front of the stage and whooped, clapped and stomped till eventually they were all in unison and the audience members were left with no choice but to participate. This moment was both gripping and exhilarating. The power of emotions flowing around the room made me want to both weep and laugh. The sense of camaraderie was more intense than when I had been sat at the top of the stone circle at dawn on the Friday morning of Glastonbury Festival 2016, having just been told that the country was leaving the EU.
Later that evening I debated this with my father over a curry at the Indian restaurant next to the Bristol Old Vic. Should theatre not always be intense? If it isn’t, has it done its job? Is it not theatre’s responsibility to make you feel intensely; to encourage you to take a hard look at one’s values and behaviours and think critically about the society we live in? Gecko theatre is a critically acclaimed physical theatre company founded in 2001 by Amit Lahav, made up of an expanding ensemble of international performers. On their website they make it clear that their aim is to do exactly that: ‘A Gecko show is visual, visceral, of ambitious theatre crafted to inspire, move and entertain.’
Their most recent show The Wedding is about marriage. But not a marriage of the traditional kind. It explores the marriage one has with society. This production rejects the classical structure of a play by exploring ideas instead of following one story line. Every actor speaks a different language. Whilst this has been a well-known criticism of the show, I would argue that it only serves Gecko’s success. The audience is forced to concentrate: the plot is not handed to them on a plate.
The Wedding explores the boundaries created when one accepts this contract with society. The donning of a wedding dress is cleverly used to represent someone conforming to society’s expectations. The sharp, rigid ensemble movements of those wearing wedding dresses then reflect the strict monotonous constraints of conformity. Various scenes throughout the production depict many characters failing to comply with these impossible standards. One particularly moving scene is of a young American man unable to sustain his marriage to society. This is creatively shown with various props on sticks such as a telephone and a tie being held up in front of him. His struggle to conform to this rigid role is reflected by his eventual failure to hold himself behind them. This scene, and many others, create empathy which forces you to think reflectively about the agreements you might be making with society.
Towards the end of the production actors begin to strip off their wedding dresses and fasten yellow flowers to their collars (a motif of freedom). The movement then develops from sharp rigid dances to free and light movement, reaching its crescendo with a breath-taking ending. An intense sense of freedom is felt as they reject the concept of ‘marriage.’ Perhaps this is why my father found the production ‘intense.’ A man who has very much tied the knot. Did it turn his thoughts inward? Either way his response can only contribute to the masses of positive reviews The Wedding has gathered. It is an incredibly beautiful production that ticks all the boxes.