Everytime I think of the experience of watching Missing by Gecko, my throat closes up and all I can do is wave my hand around as if I have something to say. But with eyes searching for a language quite beyond words, I fall short at “I just…I just…”
To now be writing a review of it, then, as you can understand, is a little problematic. But here goes.
Missing is the story of Lily, a woman who goes to an office party, meets a man, falls in love, gets married, and then sees that relationship fall apart. Through psychological and biological X-ray analysis, a man helps her to see that she needs to come to terms with her own past, and see that her parents’ own fractured marriage is not a reflection on her. In the end, she finds a way to embrace her full name – Liliana – and her Israeli heritage, as well as all of the good things she has inherited from her parents, like the ability to salsa dance.
Everyone arrives onstage via a conveyer belt, setting the precedent for a story that wrestles with the parts of our lives that are outside of our own control. It is also the vehicle for a procession of people in suits carrying cardboard boxes close to their chests, with little white orbs of light shining out of them. These, as it transpires through Lily’s story, represent the past we carry with us every day that shines out of us, whether we want it to or not.
Then there’s the music and the sound, amplified in the Grand Hall at the BAC to hit you square in the heart with reverberations that are – yes – exactly how an office party sounds, and exactly how a dinner party sounds. More than that, we hear the sound of the internal combustion that occurs in an argument between people who love each other but can’t stop sparring. It is the sound of an electric shock which buzzes, irritates and aggravates, with a flash of light that hits the stomach of Lily’s mum and dad every time they raise their voice to each other.
Yes – and there’s the lighting, blindingly bright enough to wake you from the turmoil of having seen a marriage fall apart, then dim and warm enough to transport you to the bar where Lily’s parents first meet. These scenes provide some lovely light relief while Lily’s father masquerades as a waiter for the night, just to catch the attention of the woman who will become his wife. It works – a beautiful little puppet walks in between them, and we welcome Lily to the world.
There is not a lot of text to the piece – and not a lot in English – and yet each moment is communicated with total clarity. In fact, the choreography is where it hurts and delights the most: the frantic, desperate, thrashing movements of Lily’s parents sit somewhere between violent and beautiful, and are offset every time by the innocent entrance of the older or younger Lily, interrupting her parents at war. It is experienced profoundly and viscerally, and it is heartbreaking.
At times, it is difficult to bear. What Gecko have created is thorough, and faultless, and calculated, and sensitive and searching, and just utterly gorgeous. It is theatre as I never expected it to be. It is theatre as catharsis, as spectacle, as storytelling. After three years of touring the show, you might expect a certain level of expertise at this point. But on all cylinders? And still performed with a freshness akin to the excitement of unleashing a show for the very first time? No. No, this is something quite special.
Three days later, I’m still raw, still reeling, still gazing forlornly out of windows and declaring to anyone who hasn’t seen this show that we simply cannot understand each other anymore, such is the integral shift within me. Missing has left a gaping hole in my chest and will, I fear, be ephemerally and eternally the thing missing from my life.
I just – I just – I don’t know what I can say. Gecko said it perfectly with barely any words – maybe I should return to just waving my hand around.