Artistic Director of Gecko, Amit Lahav, revealed in conversation after this dynamic, forceful and moving performance that the initial stimulus for Institute had been an exploration of what it is to care for others and to be cared for. This theme is certainly well-developed by the central cast of four full-blooded performers whose individual attention to detail and accomplished ensemble playing make this piece required viewing.
The highest praise affordable to Institute is that in many ways it does not provide concrete answers to the complex issues it explores – much remains ambiguous.
Gecko is well-known for its particular brand of physical theatre, but its scope reaches far beyond the genre. The company’s work is created with a full view of the whole piece in mind which ensures that the set design, lighting, sound and music each fully complement each other and are in fact integral to the success of the final production. This is of no surprise to anybody fortunate enough to have so far seen the work as the unfaltering precision of tightly focused technical cues impressively matches the perhaps even more finely polished physical interactions of Chris Evans, Ryan Perkins-Gangnes, François Testory and Lahav himself.
Ostensibly a dissection of the contemporary increase of mental health conditions, the skyscraping filing cabinets bordering the stage space provide a clerical and industrial feel from the outset. Gecko renders this recognisable and ordinary situation extraordinary though by means of their ever more extreme physical responses. Contrasted with the joyful abandon of early sequences highlighting the close relationship between the characters of Lahav and Evans, we move through more fractured sections in which movement is stifled by the set which impedes the physicality, and by extension the mentality, of the characters.
The highest praise affordable to Institute is that in many ways it does not provide concrete answers to the complex issues it explores – much remains ambiguous. Indeed, this is not a piece to be received passively; it demands an engagement from any audience member and challenges them to reconsider their own assumptions of the effects of stress, loneliness, broken relationships and other symptoms of modern life which we, as these characters must, may tackle through the care and attention of those closest to us.