Gecko gets physical in an emotional show

"Institute," performed by renowned physical theater company Gecko, will tell the story of four men in patient-carer relationships at the Yunfeng Theater in Shanghai this weekend.
Ti Gong

Gecko's stage set is unusual: The show takes place in odd offices and treatment rooms filled with filing cabinets where memories are stored. 

The physical performance “Institute,” produced by internationally renowned British physical theater company Gecko, will be staged at Yunfeng Theater in Shanghai this weekend.

Driven by Gecko’s desire to explore complexities in human nature, the show intends to let audiences consider what it means to care, especially in an age when people are potentially more fractured and disconnected than ever before.

“It is a journey about caring and being cared for. The show is like a mirror. Audiences would find themselves when they experience the performance,” says Amit Lahav, director of “Institute” and artistic director of the troupe.

Many people, especially men, around Lahav suffered from mental health problems, which made him worry about the issue and decide to create a physical performance as a wake-up call.

“In the modern world, it is very complicated to meet our needs for compassion, connection and love, which results in our depression,” says Lahav.

“Institute,” with an all-male cast, tells the stories of four men — Daniel, Martin, Louis and Karl — who are in patient-carer relationship. The first two, the heart of the show, are patients. Daniel struggles with the expectations he and his family have piled upon him, while Martin is overwhelmed by his lover’s rejection. They are cared for by Louis and Karl.

The show inspired Lahav to study mental health, something he hadn’t expected at the beginning of the creation of the work. Collaborating with a charity in the UK, Gecko has developed a series of events allowing audiences to gain a better understanding of as well as to pay more attention to emotional needs.

“It is an interesting problem that men are less willing to talk and express their deep emotions, which becomes a personal question that I ask myself how we, as men, are going to be better at caring for ourselves and each other.”

Every Gecko show begins with a personal question which Lahav asks himself first and then the company, and hopes to see it reflected in the world, he adds.

The stage set is unusual. The story takes place in odd offices and treatment rooms filled with filing cabinets where memories are stored. The original music, composed by Dave Price who has worked with Lahav for 16 years, depicts the characters’ emotions. There is no dialogue. Though they are talking — the characters speak Italian, French, German and English — the words they say are not necessary for audiences to understand the story.

“Instead of words, the physical expression or action is the only thing that is significant. Talking is just like salt and pepper on food,” says Lahav.

A four-year experience with street children in Southeast Asia had a profound impact on Lahav. For him, the language gap wasn’t an obstacle to communication as they could express themselves through body, metaphors and symbols. Shortly after this, Lahav began to develop his own working methodology of physical exploration and theatrical invention.

“The experience began my journey of exploring human connections and people’s emotional needs through the body,” he says.

Performance details

Date: May 5-6, 7:30pm
Tickets: 80-380 yuan
Venue: Yunfeng Theater
Address: 1700 Beijing Rd W.

Ti Gong

The tales of four men in patient-carer relationships is told through physical action rather than words.

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