This show is produced by the Gecko theatre company who specialise in physical theatre and whose director, Amit Lahav, has an international reputation in the form. I had tried to do some research beforehand, but uncovered precious little. Now, I understand why. It is a production that defies conventional theatrical norms, but draws upon all of them, and has been some three years in the making. What inspired Lahav in 2015, has taken some unexpected twists in the intervening years, resulting in the script constantly evolving. It examines The Wedding as a contract, formal and informal, spoken and unspoken between two individuals. It also explores the same between the citizen and the state. It is not an altogether optimistic vision.
The opening scene reveals players plummeting down a rubbish chute, circumnavigating the auditorium in aural surround sound before being dumped on stage amidst a heap of teddy bears, witnesses to betrayed childhood dreams. A wedding ceremony, cut and pasted from dozens of different traditions unfolds in many different languages. It is impossible to understand what the words are, save for a few snatched English phrases, and half understood foreign ones. But what is being said doesn’t matter. It is the way it is being said. There are barriers, the audience does have to work, just as happens within a marriage, or a citizen’s relationship with the state. The physical element assumes increasingly greater prominence, as a sense of isolation, mistrust and part understanding grows.
The wedding house physically collapses part way through proceedings to reveal an inner circle, and an outer circle, across which some players may not travel. Are you in, or out? Do you want to be in or out? Refugee’s emerge from a suitcase begging for alms, from the audience, the players, from anyone.
To the rear of the stage lies a grand proscenium arch with elevated top table at which the rich feast, and the rest literally scramble to scale. Later this is exposed as an illusion, as the front cloth is stripped to reveal a mortal on stilts in a scene which visually, and metaphorically, echoes the same scene in the Wizard of Oz film when the Wizard is exposed as being not quite so mighty after all.
A tumultuous finale finds all the players, centre stage, sat in a line of chairs, lamp lit, singing a ( wedding?) chant, rhythmically clapping their hands, and stamping their feet in a visceral close, seemingly hell bent on reminding us that this is what physical theatre feels like.
A linear narrative scarcely exists, instead Lahav and his players invite us to explore ourselves, our own senses of estrangement, alienation and isolation, our own sense of shattered childhood dreams. The sceptre of Trump and Brexit hangs. At around seventy -five minutes without interval, the playing time is about right, but it is not an easy watch. There is precious little personal characterisation to latch onto, just faceless bureaucrats and ensemble joie de vivre.
The well attended first night was pleasingly heavily skewed in favour of young people who hopefully will be inspired to explore further, and develop themselves, some of the idea and themes realised in this show. A spontaneous standing ovation was well deserved. On a cold February Thursday night ovations have to be earned, and well- earned it was.
Runs till Sat 10/2/18 and continues on nationwide tour.