Review: Institute – Gecko Theatre At The Playhouse

Photo: Toby Farrow
INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed Gecko are making their first visit to Liverpool’s Playhouse with Institute, which employs their skill with physical theatre to maximum effect in a 75- minute work that explores a tremendous range of human emotion. Amit Lahav, creator, director and performer, explains that he’s examining a world where everyone relies on someone to catch them – “When the time comes, will anyone really care?” He and his three co-performers take us on a rollercoaster ride during which we seem to keep opening our eyes to see another precipice to fall from. We keep catching glimpses of ourselves and people we might know as our eyes hurtle round the stage following the sinuous choreography, constantly changing settings and emotional temperatures. How are all the characters interconnected? It’s never absolutely clear how many different stories are being told. What is abundantly clear is an eternal problem with the male mind. In a society when we are supposed to understand stress, pressure and mental health better than ever, men still find it difficult to reach out for help or to accept it when it comes. From familiar scenes of colleagues and friends engaged in back-slapping fraternal bonding the action takes us to darker places, including some disturbing imagery of desperate efforts to re-connect. This all sounds unremittingly bleak, but in the hands of Gecko the material retains its weight while finding great humour, energy and colour. Amit Lahav performs with Chris Evans, Ryen Perkins-Gangnes and Francoise Testory. The set he has co-designed with Rhys Jarman uses the space magnificently well, with changes of place achieved at times with touches that would not be out of place in the work of a stage illusionist. The overall effect is, indeed, both mystical and magical. Everyone who sees this show will take something different away with them but one thing’s for certain, judging by the ecstatic audience response and the buzz of excitement after the show – it gets people thinking and talking. Gecko’s unique way of connecting with their audience will engage people from a very wide age range, and Institute has the power to entertain whilst hopefully beginning some difficult but essential conversations. Institute is at Liverpool Playhouse until Saturday 19th November, after which the company take a short break before moving on to Sydney, Australia. Review by Nigel Smith