Kin is the latest performance by the much-acclaimed Gecko Theatre Company. This is physical theatre at its peak. It’s contemporary, grounded, political and urgent.
For the audience, Kin is certainly a challenging and edgy performance, and we have to put in some of the work ourselves. The text is minimal, the lighting hints at menace, the actors’ body language suggests a brooding despair. Throughout the performance the sounds beat out a rhythm of horror.
It’s tense and the audience can’t sit back at ease. There’s no slouching in the back rows! On a half-dark stage – bathed in pale yellow lights and smoke – we can make out a lively young crowd hanging around an old wooden shed. It could be a rave in Portslade or Whitehawk. How cute. But it’s not.
There’s a man with a suitcase, then another, and another. Always a long queue that never moves. A woman has a blue scarf over her head. But does anyone have a passport? No, it’s as if they have walked out of nowhere, in no place with nothing. A violin plays a sad lament. The dancers go crazy, they spin, rotate, shovel. Then the thunder comes.
Immigrants! “What papers? They have no papers, no visas!”
“Tengo hambre!” Sorry, mate no food here!
“Venga, venga!” Someone in a raincoat holds up a passport but it’s not right, go away.
“Necesitas aprender!” The guards say sarcastically. They’re just doing their job, when will these people learn? Follow the rules!
Will the guards ever let them through? An older woman shuffles up to join a queue with no end. There is a wild and crazy dance which expresses the helplessness of those who will never have the correct documents. She gyrates in pain and despair. She laments. But is that a dead body she now sees passing by? Men and women are fighting. The scenes are punctuated by laments from a tinkling keyboard, a clarinet, a roll of drums.
Amit Lahav – and the whole cast – physically depict these scenarios through movement, dance and stamping which captures the feeling with a profundity way beyond words. Scarves flickered and swirled. The audience was certainly transfixed.
At the end the whole audience was on its feet. It was more than a standing ovation. Yet, there was still time for a final breathtaking moment.
The fourth wall of theatre was removed. The actors and director took off their masks. Each gave us a short glimpse of their own personal stories of migration, or dislocation.
One was an immigrant from Haiti, others came from China, Norway or Spain. Amit Lahav, Gecko’s artistic director, had drawn on conversations with his own grandmother about their family’s journey from Yemen to Palestine in 1932 to escape persecution. The importance of a local vigil for peace and justice at Brighton’s Peace Statue the previous Sunday was also mentioned.
Physical theatre. Contemporary themes. This performance wasn’t just about acting or theatre. It was much more than that. And we’ll definitely be queuing up at the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange for more from Amit Lahav, Gecko’s artistic director, and the team.
Corn Exchange, 1st – 4th November 2023
Photos by Richard Haughton, Mark Sepple and Malachy Luckie