It begins with a heart beat, a little girl singing to her parents, a mother dancing flamenco.
It begins with Lily, a girl with a past she doesn’t quite know how to contain.
It begins with a frame, a moving frame that creates a sense of stillness within a surreal parade of scenes.
Missing is an ordinary story told in an extraordinary way; it explores how, in an age where distance is a flexible concept, our own identity becomes fractured, be it in our relationship to a past displaced by geographical distance, or to a present moving at an ever-advancing speed. Where in this equation does our soul lie?
The production creates a world in which memory and reality intermix, in which one’s personal landscape can be as fictitious as it is real, and then goes on to explore the geography of this personal map. Recollections get recoded and re-examined, and, with its precise physical and visual language, the piece digs deeper into moments that usually glide by.
The most powerful dramatic tool in Missing is its ability to juxtapose and recontextualize – this is done through a series of frames, an intercutting between narrative threads. We jump from Lilly’s treadmill of a life to her past memories. The production is shaped by a constant sense of motion. This movement, which drives both character and story, is at times expressive and at other times deconstructive – an apt elocution. Under director Amit Lahav, Gecko turn the stage into a site of exploration in which distance becomes a metaphor for identity.
Missing also toys with the possibilities offered by the dynamics of the stage. The frames, which are woven into the narrative, create a series of portraits: from the early scenes of a young Lily – played by a wide-eyed puppet – to the later and more abstracted encounters with the surgeon of her past, played by a curiously archaic Polish vendor. Language takes on a shifting subjectivity, as the characters only allow certain words to be fully understood, and the mix of English, Spanish and Polish creates a distinct identity for Lily. The jumps in chronology are made possible by a precise physicality that marks the tone, rhythm and atmosphere of a scene.
Time becomes a fluid, filtered thing, memories begin to drip into daily life; time can shift backwards and jump forwards as Lilly replays the same fight between her parents over and over in her mind, with the numbing effect of repetition. The show’s own language begins to fracture, words becomes vaguer, reality more distorted and the variables that shape Lily’s life – love, trust, money, ambition – become central characters in her psychology.
Gecko’s production is a piece rich in atmosphere but also potent in the complexity of its theatrical language. It is a story that’s both incredibly familiar and entirely foreign.
Gecko’s Missing was on at The Place as part of the Spring Loaded Season and will be on at Contact Manchester between 9th and 12th May.