Gecko Theatre’s New Creation Space To Become Part Of ‘Centre of Excellence’

Gecko is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed physical theatre company that aims to transform the way we think about performance with their fresh and captivating approach to shows and themes. 

The theatre company was created in 2001 by Artistic Director Amit Lahav after he found his passion for physical theatre, a type of performance that blends choreography and physical movement with sound, lighting, set design, the use of breath and emotion, multiple languages and metaphor as the primary method of storytelling. 

“Our shows invite each audience member to explore their own humanity and see their own narratives and the world around them reimagined. The potential is for personal catharsis, a call to arms and the redirection towards deeper human connection and community,” Amit Lahav explained.

The company moved to Ipswich from Bristol after performing The Race at the New Wolsey Theatre. Chief Executive of the Wolsey, Sarah Holmes, admired the company’s work and invited Gecko to become an associate company. 

Photo by John Ferguson

Gecko has a unique and organic approach to creating a show, a three-year process for the company. The first year is a time for exploring ideas and themes, creating a seed of an idea that can be developed further. The following year allows the company to evolve these themes into images, set design, costumes and movement, experimenting with all of these elements together with the company’s ensemble of performers and creatives. During the third year, the final show will emerge, as design elements are completed and story elements, choreography, lighting and sound are completed.

The show then embarks on a ‘creation tour’ during with many elements of the show change as the company reviews how the show ‘works’ on stage and reflect on the response of the audience. Each show ‘settles’ the more it is performed, although changes to the production will continue over its lifespan.

Amit is currently working on the company’s latest show, commissioned by the National Theatre, which explores themes of racism, family and heritage. Following a reunion in Israel with his grandmother Leah in 2017, Amit began imagining the 2,000km journey her family embarked upon to escape persecution, walking from Yemen to Palestine at the age of four in 1932. This moving experience began to make him think about where his family is truly from, his immediate family originating from Israel and moving to London in the 1970’s.

“I was born somewhere else and migrated into a different culture, as did my father, my grandmother and four of my great grandparents. I’ve always felt very comfortable on the move – creative and alert. I’m sure it’s a feeling that many of us share, a heightened suspension as we neither exist where we’ve come from nor where we’re going,” Amit Lahav said.

Photo by John Ferguson

The National Theatre commission will see Gecko perform the new show on their stage in 2023, a relationship that has been built over decades.

“I’ve been following Gecko’s work for a number of years and have a growing admiration for their dynamic and fearless approach to story in motion. Allied to this their commitment to internationalism, with completely integrated educational work, as well as their deeply embedded UK-wide touring ethos, is hugely impressive. Their presence at the National Theatre is overdue, and we look forward very much to them being with us,” said Rufus Norris, Artistic Director, National Theatre.

Despite the lockdown, through the support of the Cultural Recovery Fund and the National Theatre commission, the company has been able to continue the development of the new show, creating COVID secure ‘bubbles’ to allow the creative team and performers to work together. The company is due to complete the next phase of development during July 2021, with the show touring from September 2022. 

Gecko’s Head of Operations and Development Steve Allman said, “It’s looking amazing, Amit has been saying it’s the best creative period he’s had in his life. I think that’s a combination of a lot of things, an incredibly diverse group of performers and creating under pandemic restrictions, it has brought everyone together with a determination to create our best work yet” 

Photo by John Ferguson

Gecko are also beginning work on their new ‘Creation Space’, transforming the disused Burton’s warehouse on Ipswich’s waterfront into a nationally significant rehearsal and devising studio and the company’s HQ.

Supported by Ipswich Borough Council and with funding from Arts Council England, the company are working with Ipswich-based architects EDRM to design a creation facility that incorporates a sprung dance floor studio, props workshop, sound studio, and office and kitchen facilities.

Interior after clearance- photo by EDRM Architects

The company has already raised £750k of the £1.3m to complete the project and are currently running a Crowdfunder to raise further funds. Every donation given to the Crowdfunder before 23 July 2021 will be doubled thanks to support from the Architectural Heritage Fund, with Gecko hoping to achieve their target of £25k, which will be doubled to £50k, a massive boost to the project, which is expected to open during summer 2022.

“This is a key project on Ipswich’s waterfront, and together with our neighbours DanceEast, this part of Ipswich will become recognised as a ‘centre of excellence’ for contemporary performance and dance, attracting international companies to the town to use the facilities, and raising aspiration through training and mentoring. We can’t wait for it all to come together,” explained Steve, “Ipswich is home for Amit, but it is also Gecko’s home. That’s why this space is so important to us – we could’ve gone anywhere really, there are plenty of empty buildings around, but we knew that Gecko had to be in Ipswich. This building is for Gecko, for Ipswich, and our community, both local and international” 

CGI Image by EDRM Architects – Daniel Fisher Architectural Visualisation

The team at Gecko, more than anything, are overjoyed to be back to work where they can all collaborate creatively and emotionally. 

Melissa, a student on work experience with Gecko, told us, “I think I love Gecko so much because it is so collaborative, everyone’s working on one small part but then everyone brings it together into this really big ‘wow’ moment. All these different parts from tech stuff through to the choreography all comes together. It’s like a work of art where all the paints work in complementing each other.” 

Steve agreed, stating, “Gecko has always been about deepening human connection through performance and that happens in everything we do, whether we are making a show, training students or working together in the office. That’s such a positive and inspiring thing to be a part of. That is Gecko.”

Visit www.geckotheatre.com to support the Creation Space crowdfunder and to explore Gecko’s work further.

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