a little space

Mind The Gap & Gecko
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

a little space Credit: Tom Woollard
a little space Credit: Tom Woollard
a little space Credit: Tom Woollard

Gecko has a deserved reputation as a leading, cutting edge physical theatre company whose production design and execution are honed to the nth degree and whose last production, Institute, was toured round the world.

Mind the Gap is a leading company working with learning disabled performers and it is important to realise that, although this is a collaboration, as a performance this is a MTG show using the structure and movement techniques of Gecko. a little space is MTGs first physical theatre production.

“Set in an apartment block, this devised show follows the lives of five people and explores what happens when they connect and disconnect from each other, whether through choice or through isolation. Using breath as an anchor to explore movement and emotion and drawing on the performers’ own experiences, a little space uses movement, imagery, sound and lighting to portray the needs, desires and fears of the characters.” Well—this is what is intended anyway.

One main problem from the start is that the company tells us is asking one basic question: what it feels to be alone. Yet the stage is always busy and full of people who invade the space and cause havoc for the character or characters portrayed.

The set is a complicated arrangement of metal pipes which sometimes light up and through which communicating sounds are fed signifying that everybody living in the apartments is connected in some way. The stage has a bed, a desk, a chair and a TV which are moved around to signify all the rooms in the apartment block. Every so often, a number of light boxes are moved around and piled together to signify the number of people living in the block.

Performers Paul Bates (probably the best at expressing emotion), Lorraine Brown, Alison Colborne, JoAnne Haines and Charlotte Jones portray a number of characters including a couple whose relationship is splintered by the man’s obsession with watching TV, a student and a number of ethereal ghosts or voices who appear out of the walls or from under the floorboards, move furniture and create chaos.

There is very little script and, in Gecko style, lots of contemporary movement and a heavy soundscape. Some scenes work better than others—I especially liked the trip into TV land through the screen by the character obsessed with soaps and his subsequent inclusion in a filmed episode. But a lot of this production is very repetitive and it is sometimes confusing to know which character is which and what they are trying to portray.

This feels at times like a work in progress—and maybe it is. There are some areas that feel under-rehearsed or that need tightening.

The piece is described by the companies as, “a little space is 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.”

I can’t say I got a sense of loneliness or isolation—I didn’t think the performances were subtle enough for that. I did get the idea of voices and people invading our space and causing mental health issues. I didn’t see any kind gestures changing things as there were no real individual interactions.

A good effort but more work needed I think.

Reviewer: Suzanne Hawkes

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